22 December 2012

Uganda: Cerinah Nebanda Death - Cocaine, Alcohol Found

Results just in from the Government chemist and a UK laboratory indicate that a lot of chemicals were found in samples picked from the fallen Butaleja woman Member of Parliament, Cerinah Nebanda.

A preliminary report released Saturday evening indicates that cocaine, heroin, alcohol and several other chemicals were found in the blood, gut and tissue samples picked after the postmortem.

The report released by the Director General of Health Services, Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng combined the postmortem examination carried out at Mulago hospital and toxicology test done at ROAR Forensics Ltd in the UK and the Government Analytical Laboratory in Kampala. The results of a third test, referred to as histology, done in Israel, are not yet ready.

Dr. Acheng said that the toxins or drugs were detected in Nebanda's stomach contents suggesting that she may have taken them orally before her death. "The detection of the products and their breakdown substances in the blood and urine indicates they were absorbed and distributed in the blood stream to various body organs and eventually excreted in the urine," she said.

Other samples taken from wine that was found in her boyfriend's residence, where she spent her last few hours, also had some traces of these substances.

The report explains that the various chemicals found in her blood could have reacted with one another to cause a deadly effect. ( Detailed explanation on chemicals to be published in Sunday Vision newspaper)

The results come in after a week-long of wrangles and uncertainty over what exactly might have killed or led to the detah of the outspoken Nebanda.

Meanwhile, the fallen legislator is to be buried on Sunday after a decision reached upon by her family.

Although the burial for the MP was slated to take place on Wednesday, Parliament on Tuesday stopped her burial after hours of a heated debate over who might have ended her life.



The significant findings as seen at autopsy were congested lungs with oedema and patchy consolidation. The pancreas had a dull outer surface and a haemorrhagic cut surface. The stomach mucosa was hyperaemic.

Significant toxins detected in urine, post-mortem blood, stomach content samples (and trace amounts in white wine) included ethanol (alcohol), cocaine (and its metabolites/breakdown products), morphine (and its metabolites/breakdown products), codeine, chloroquine, cocaethlene and dextromethorphan.

The fact that some of these toxins/drugs were detected in the stomach contents is an indication that they may have been taken orally prior to death.

The detection of the products and their breakdown substances in the blood and urine indicates they were absorbed and distributed in the blood stream to various body organs and eventually excreted in the urine.

The post-mortem report (by Prof Wabinga indicates that the needle puncture wound seen at autopsy was for administering medication).

Here below is a brief on the detected drugs and their effect:


Detected in trace amounts, is used for treatment of malaria.


Used as a cough suppressant as well as for pain relief. The patchy consolidation seen at autopsy is a sign of Bronchopneumonia which may present as cough. The deceased was probably on medication for cough (or pneumonia).

Alcohol (Ethanol)

Post-mortem findings are non-specific but include intense congestion of the gastric mucosa (reported as hyperaemia in this post-mortem), odour of alcholic beverages (probably the sweet smell reported at autopsy) and congestion of the organs.

Cocaine(and metabolites)

The effects on the body could be due to cocaine or its breakdown products. Post-mortem findings include pulmonary edema and congestion (as seen at autopsy). Chronic use of cocaine is associated with cardiotoxicity especially heart rhythm disturbances (which cannot be seen at autopsy with the naked eye).

Morphine/Heroin/Codeine (and metabolites)

Depress the central nervous system which may lead to sudden death resulting from respiratory depression, cardiac arrest, heart rhythm disturbances (arrhythmias) or severe pulmonary oedema.

The observed pulmonary oedema and congestion, patchy consolidation of the lungs, dull pancreas, hyperaemic stomach at post-mortem may have an explained link to the toxicology findings.

NB: The effects of the toxins/drugs discovered in the blood potentiate each other as do the adverse effects.

Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng

Director General Health Services

Ministry of Health

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