Lateral Flow Assessment and Unanticipated Toxicity of Kratom

Chem Res Toxicol. 2019 Jan 22;32(1):113-121. doi: 10.1021/acs.chemrestox.8b00218. Epub 2018 Nov 16.


The leaves of the Mitragynine speciosia tree (also known as Kratom) have long been chewed, smoked, or brewed into a tea by people in Southeastern Asian countries, such as Malaysia and Thailand. Just this past year, the plant Kratom gained popularity in the United States as a "legal opioid" and scheduling it as a drug of abuse is currently pending. The primary alkaloid found in Kratom is a μ-opioid receptor agonist, mitragynine, whose structure contains a promising scaffold for immunopharmacological use. Although Kratom is regarded as a safe opioid alternative, here we report the LD50 values determined for its two main psychoactive alkaloids, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, as comparable to heroin in mice when administered intravenously. Given Kratom's recent emergence in the U.S., there is currently no diagnostic test available for law enforcement or health professionals, so we sought to design such an assay. Mitragynine was used as a starting point for hapten design, resulting in a hapten with an ether linker extending from the C9 position of the alkaloid. Bacterial flagellin (FliC) was chosen as a carrier protein for active immunization in mice, yielding 32 potential monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) for assay development. Antimitragynine mAbs in the range of micro- to nanomolar affinities were uncovered and their utility in producing a convenient lateral flow detection assay of human fluid samples was examined. Antibodies were screened for binding to mitragynine, 7-hydroxymitragynine, and performance in lateral flow assays. Two monoclonal antibodies were subcloned and further purified with 93 and 362 nM affinity to mitragynine. Test strip assays were optimized with a detection cut off of 0.5 μg/mL for mitragynine in buffer and urine (reflecting projected clinically relevant levels of drug in urine), which could be beneficial to law enforcement agencies and health professionals as the opioid epidemic in America continues to evolve.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / analysis
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / biosynthesis
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Mice
  • Mitragyna / chemistry*
  • Molecular Conformation
  • Plant Extracts / administration & dosage
  • Plant Extracts / analysis*
  • Plant Extracts / toxicity
  • Plant Leaves / chemistry*
  • Secologanin Tryptamine Alkaloids / administration & dosage
  • Secologanin Tryptamine Alkaloids / analysis*
  • Secologanin Tryptamine Alkaloids / toxicity
  • Surface Plasmon Resonance


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Plant Extracts
  • Secologanin Tryptamine Alkaloids
  • 7-hydroxymitragynine
  • mitragynine