Vampire Steroids "Alive" at Night
Ashley Kersten, PharmD Intern and Jennifer K. Seltzer, PharmD
October 14, 2013
Vampires are appearing in more than just blockbuster films and TV shows; scientists recently discovered a "vampire steroid" that may be attacking some United States water supplies.
Trenbolone is an anabolic steroid used in cattle feed across the country. This product was originally believed to undergo phototransformation and break down in the presence of sunlight. However, new research has found that night-time conditions in rivers and lakes (25◦C and pH 7) facilitate reassembly of the parent compound.1, 2
While human trenbolone use is banned, the substance is frequently abused by bodybuilders. Structurally, trenbolone is similar to tetrahydrogestrinone (THG). THG is undetectable on routine urine screens because the heat and chemicals used in the drug screen process cause the substance to degrade. THG was the center of a large scandal in the early 2000s when dozens of professional athletes, including Barry Bonds, were allegedly abusing the substance.
Trenbolone metabolites are potent endocrine-disrupting compounds that interfere with important signaling pathways, especially in fetal and early life development. In humans, anabolic steroids can cause stunted growth, kidney damage, hypertension, increased hair growth in females and infertility in males.4 Evidence suggest these metabolites damage the reproductive cycle of several species of fish.2
Steroid hormones and prescription drugs are currently found in more than 50% of surface water sources for drinking.3 The product-to-parent reversion of trenbolone means steroid levels in the water supply could be grossly underestimated as tests to evaluate its presence are usually conducted during the day. Throughout a 72-hour night-day cycle, researchers found degradation of trenbolone in daylight hours followed by an equivalent rate of regeneration during the dark period.2
While researchers do not believe there is an immediate risk for humans, there are concerns over the true amount of steroid contaminating drinking water. Better environmental control policies should be considered, such as chemical monitoring over a 48-hour period. The Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency have not commented on the discovery.