Catha edulis Forsk leaves (Khat) is a flowering plant. A high proportion of the adult population in the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa chews it for its mild stimulant effect. The aim of the current study was to investigate the embryotoxic and teratogenic effects of the Khat extract using 60 female pregnant rats. These were divided to a Khat extract-treated group and a control group. Methanolic extract of Khat was orally given to the treated group 4 days before mating and up to day 16 of pregnancy with a dose of 100 mg/kg. Our results showed that significant number of embryos of the Khat-treated mothers were malformed and different in size and shape compared to embryos from the mothers of the control group. At day 8 of pregnancy, malformed embryos had ill developed primitive layers. By day 10 of pregnancy, neural tube and the somite were not formed compared to the control embryos. At later stages of pregnancy, embryos of the Khat-treated mothers appeared severely abnormal with opened neural groove and visceral pouches. Disrupted normal neural tube development, undifferentiated brain vesicles, incomplete closure of the brain flexures were also observed in these embryos. Highly significant increase in the number of the resorbed embryos of the Khat-treated mothers were observed (P < 0.01). The resorbed embryos appeared as a cellular collection in their placenta with some of their decidua had no visible embryonic tissues. In conclusions, Khat induced embryotoxic effects as well as severely affected the early normal embryonic development in rat.
KEY WORDS: Khat; Embryo toxicity; Teratogenicity; Morphological & Histological analysis; Rat.