The potential use of 2-aminothiazoline-4-carboxylic acid (ATCA) as a forensic marker for cyanide exposure in medicolegal death investigation: A review

Forensic Sci Rev. 2019 Jan;31(1):45-58.


Cyanide (CN) is one of the most toxic of all substances and can be found in various natural and anthropogenic sources. Sensitive and effective methods for the confirmation of CN exposure are crucial in medical, military, and forensic settings. Due to its high volatility and reactivity, direct detection of CN from postmortem samples could raise inconclusive interpretation issues that may hinder accurate determination of the cause of death. The detection of the alternative CN metabolites as markers to test CN exposure may offer a solution to reduce the potential for false-negative and false-positive results. 2-Aminothiazoline-4-carboxylic acid (ATCA) is a minor metabolite of CN and has been proposed to be a potential alternative forensic marker for the confirmation of CN exposure. According to the current state of knowledge, ATCA has not yet been associated with other metabolic pathways except for CN detoxification. Moreover, ATCA is stable under various conditions over time. This article reviews analytical methods developed for the analysis of ATCA as well as studies related to potential use of ATCA as a marker for the diagnosis of CN exposure. The need for research related to the use of ATCA as a reliable forensic marker for CN exposure in medicolegal death investigations is also discussed.

Keywords: 2-Aminothiazoline-4-carboxylic acid; biomarkers; cyanide exposure; cyanide poisoning; death investigation; forensic markers; forensic science.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / analysis*
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Cyanides / pharmacokinetics
  • Cyanides / poisoning
  • Cyanides / toxicity*
  • Diet
  • Fires
  • Fluorometry
  • Food
  • Forensic Toxicology
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Humans
  • Inhalation Exposure / analysis
  • Liquid-Liquid Extraction
  • Molecular Structure
  • Poisoning / diagnosis*
  • Solid Phase Extraction
  • Spectrophotometry
  • Thiazoles / analysis*
  • Thiazoles / chemistry


  • Biomarkers
  • Cyanides
  • Thiazoles
  • 2-amino-delta(2)-thiazoline-4-carboxylic acid