Rhabdomyolysis (R) is a complex condition involving the rapid dissolution of damaged or injured skeletal muscle. This leads to the direct release of intracellular components, including myoglobin, creatine kinase, aldolase, and lactate dehydrogenase, as well as electrolytes, into the bloodstream and extracellular space. Clinically, R shows a triad of symptoms: myalgia, limb weakness, and myoglobinuria without hematuria, while myoglobin has been recognized as playing a part in the development of acute kidney injury.
Coturnism is a relatively rare disease, mostly found in the European countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, characterized by acute R. It follows the consumption of Coturnix coturnix, a species of quails common in Europe, that have ingested the toxic substances (and especially coniine) present in the herbaceous plant called hemlock (Conium maculatum). Coniine may be lethal at a dose of 150 mg but it has neurotoxic effects at smaller doses, with acute R and acute kidney injury. Freezing and cooking the meat does not inactivate the alkaloids present in the birds’ flesh and digestive tract. The clinical course of coturnism includes neurotoxicosis, tremor, vomiting, muscle paralysis, respiratory paralysis/failure, R and acute kidney injury. In appropriate geographical and temporal settings, it should be considered when diagnosing patients with acute R. The genetic, biochemical and epidemiological characteristics of coturnism are not yet fully known, while we wait reliable data from experimental studies.
Keywords: hemlock, coniine, coturnism, acute kidney injury, quails, rhabdomyolisis