Greener Journal of Epidemiology and Public Health

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Greener Journal of Epidemiology and Public Health, Vol. 4 (3), pp. 061-070, November 2016.

 ISSN: 2354-2381 © 2016 Authors

Research Article

Manuscript Number: 102116188



Toxicity and Safety of Khat (Catha edulis) Consumption during Pregnancy using Olive Baboons (Papio anubis) as Experimental Models: A Prospective Randomised Study


Emily Muema1*, Peter Kinyanjui2, James Mbaria3, Joseph Nguta4, Sharon Chepkwony5, Joseph Kamau6, Nyamongo Onkoba7 and Atunga Nyachieo8


1,3,4Department of Public Health, Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Nairobi, P.O. Box 19676-00202 KNH, Nairobi Kenya.

2,6,8Department of Biochemistry, School of Medicine, University of Nairobi, P.O Box 30197-00100 Nairobi-Kenya.

5,6,7,8Institute of Primate Research, P.O. Box 24481-00502 Karen, Nairobi-Kenya.


Background: The chewing of khat leaves (Catha edulis Forsk) is widely practiced in East Africa and parts of the Middle East, where it forms a deep-rooted social and cultural function. Consumption of Khat is common among men but recently it has extended to women. Biochemical and toxicological effects of Khat on pregnancy and fetal development in lower animals has been noted. Studies on the effect of khat consumption has focused on men thus no data is available on women and especially during pregnancy. This study was conducted to evaluate the effects of khat on liver and kidney functions during pregnancy using olive baboons as experimental models. 


Methods: Six pregnant olive baboons were randomly assigned into khat treatment group (n=3) that received 100mls of crude khat at a dose of 5 g/kg body weight/week for 8 weeks and the control group (n=3) received normal saline during the second trimester. Blood pressure, temperature and weight changes were measured weekly. Blood was collected to assay for liver and kidney function tests and liver and kidney tissues collected during necropsy for histopathological examinations.


Results: The levels of aminotransferases, urea and creatinine in the khat treated group were significantly elevated compared to those in the control group. There was a decrease of body weight in the dams, fetal birth weight and levels of albumin and sodium in treatment group compared to those in the control group. Kidney and liver tissues of the baboons and their fetuses treated with khat showed necrosis, periportal fibrosis with focal degenerative changes, glomerular degeneration and infiltration with lymphocytes.  Blood pressure was not significantly different between the two groups.


Conclusion: The findings show that crude khat may damage the liver and kidneys and modulate the levels of liver enzymes, urea, creatinine and electrolytes essential for liver and kidney functions. Khat is not safe and its use during pregnancy should be discouraged.


Key words: Khat; olive baboons; toxicity; pregnancy; liver and kidney function; safety.

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