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Year : 2014  |  Volume : 60  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 346-347

Esophageal perforation and death following glyphosate poisoning

1 Department of Medicine, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER), Puducherry, India
2 Critical Care Division, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER), Puducherry, India

Date of Web Publication14-Aug-2014

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Wadhwa Jyoti
Department of Medicine, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER), Puducherry
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0022-3859.138834

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How to cite this article:
Jyoti W, Thabah M M, Rajagopalan S, Hamide A. Esophageal perforation and death following glyphosate poisoning. J Postgrad Med 2014;60:346-7

How to cite this URL:
Jyoti W, Thabah M M, Rajagopalan S, Hamide A. Esophageal perforation and death following glyphosate poisoning. J Postgrad Med [serial online] 2014 [cited 2023 Sep 30];60:346-7. Available from:


We wish to present a case of a young female who had extensive oral ulceration and esophageal perforation after glyphosate ingestion and expired subsequently due to sepsis and multiorgan dysfunction.

A 25-year-old lady presented to the Emergency Department with a history of fever and painful oral ulcers of 4 days' duration. This was associated with pain during speech, odynophagia and streaky hematemesis of 1 day duration. There was no history of photosensitivity, joint pains, jaundice or chronic drug intake. There was no history of any premorbid ailments.

Oral examination revealed extensive oral ulcerations bleeding to touch [Figure 1] with a white membrane formation over both tonsils, soft palate and posterior pharyngeal wall. The remainder of the examination was unremarkable.
Figure 1: Mucosal erosions and oral ulcers

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The initial differential diagnosis included diphtheria, herpes simplex infection, Coxsackie virus infection and Vincent's angina. She was initiated on empirical crystalline penicillin, metronidazole and acyclovir. The throat swab for Gram's stain, culture and sensitivity and Albert's stain for Corynebacterium diphtheria and serum antinuclear antibodies were negative. Renal functions showed blood urea of 111 mg/dL and serum creatinine of 3.7 mg/dL with normal serum electrolytes. The remainder of her laboratory parameters and chest X-ray were found to be normal.

On Day 3, cardiac auscultation revealed a crunching sound synchronous with the heart beat with a palpable crepitus in the neck. Clinical suspicion of the pneumomediastinum was confirmed by chest and neck radiographs [Figure 2]a. A review of history revealed intentional consumption of around 100-150 mL of a toxic compound, which was found to be glyphosate. The concentration of glyphosate ingested was 43.15% w/w with 95% purity and net concentration of 41% SL. Other ingredients (not specified) were 56.85% w/w. There was no suggestion of co-ingestion of any other compound.
Figure 2: (a) X-ray of the neck (lateral view) showing air in the prevertebral space (from C2 to C6). (b) Contrast-enhanced computed tomography of the chest showing sealed esophageal perforation with leaking of contrast into the surrounding mediastinum. There are subpleural linear opacities in the right dependent area suggesting subsegmental collapse

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Chest and neck computed tomography (CT) confirmed air in the prevertebral spaces and parapharyngeal spaces, subcutaneous emphysema and pneumomediastinum with minimal extension into the pleural cavities. A contrast-enhanced CT scan with oral contrast showed sealed esophageal perforation, confirming the origin of the pneumomediastinum [Figure 2]b. She deteriorated rapidly and required mechanical ventilation, inotropes and dialysis. Surgical intervention was deferred given the clinical severity; she finally succumbed to illness on Day 12 after the ingestion of the compound.

Glyphosate is an aminophosphonic analogue of amino acid glycine called as glycine phosphonate, and is used worldwide as a weedicide. The proposed mechanism of glyphosate toxicity in humans includes uncoupling of oxidative phosphorylation and glyphosate or surfactant-mediated direct cardiotoxicity. [1]

Most of the formulations commonly available contain 41% glyphosate and 15% polyoxyethyleneamine (POEA), besides water. A few studies have suggested a greater role of the surfactants in the toxicity than the glyphosate per se. [2]

Chen et al. [3] have reported the spectrum of corrosive esophageal injury after intentional paraquat or glyphosate surfactant herbicide ingestion and concluded that glyphosate is a mild caustic agent that produces esophageal injury of milder grades only.

Glyphosate has been placed in the Grade III Toxicity Category by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that indicates a relatively low toxicity potential, [4] which is in contradiction to our case.

There is no specific antidote available for glyphosate poisoning, although some case reports have highlighted the beneficial effect of early renal replacement therapy and intravenous lipid emulsion. [5]

Through this article, we wish to highlight the corrosive action of glyphosate and also that corrosive poisoning should feature in the differential diagnosis of any patient presenting with oral ulcers and dysphagia, which was missed in our case.

 :: Acknowledgment Top

The authors wish to acknowledge the technical help from Dr. Vinodbabu Murakonda and Dr. Thiruvikrama Prakash G for their contribution for the development of the article.

 :: References Top

Lee HL, Kan CD, Tsai CL, Liou MJ, Guo HR. Comparative effects of the formulation of glyphosate-surfactant herbicides on haemodynamics in swine. ClinToxicol (Phila) 2009;47:651-8.  Back to cited text no. 1
Sawada Y, Nagai Y, Ueyama M, Yamamoto I. Probable toxicity of surface-active agent in commercial herbicide containing glyphosate. Lancet 1988;1:299.  Back to cited text no. 2
Chen HH, Lin JL, Huang WH, Weng CH, Lee SY, Hsu CW,et al. Spectrum of corrosiveesophagealinjuryafterintentionalparaquat or glyphosate-surfactantherbicideingestion. Int J Gen Med 2013;6:677-83.  Back to cited text no. 3
R.E.D Facts: Glyphosate. Washington D.C.:United States Environmental Protection Agency; 1993. p. 1-7.  Back to cited text no. 4
Han SK, Jeong J, Yeom S, Ryu J, Park S. Use of a lipid emulsion in a patient with refractory hypotension caused by glyphosate-surfactant herbicide. ClinToxicol (Phila) 2010;48:566-8.  Back to cited text no. 5


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]

This article has been cited by
Jiri Patocka
Military Medical Science Letters. 2018; 87(4): 169
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