In recent years, the abuse of prescription drugs, designer
opioids and novel psychoactive substances has steadily increased.
For the identification of illicit drugs in forensic toxicological
casework, analysis can be delayed and potentially compromised due to
lengthy sample preparation. However a new technique has been developed
that can provide high sensitivity and fast results.
This new development, which is described in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology
, will impact how resources are utilized and how quickly results are conveyed to law enforcement.
‘Optimized 2D liquid chromatography methodology can provide higher sensitivity and faster results to detect illicit drugs.’
Preliminary testing techniques such as immunoassay are perhaps the most
utilized technique in forensic analysis for rapid results with minimal
sample preparation. However, to achieve satisfactory results with trace
level detection, extensive and time-consuming sample preparation
protocols may be required.
For a complete forensic identification, most forensic laboratories
use single-dimensional chromatography techniques such as liquid
chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry (LC/MS or LC/MS-MS).
However in this study, researchers from Boston University School of
Medicine (BUSM) used multi-dimensional chromatography combined with a
micro-extraction technique for identifying illegal drugs in urine
samples in fewer than 20 minutes.
"Through this study, we have shown that the optimized 2D liquid
chromatography methodology can provide higher sensitivity and faster
results," explained corresponding author Sabra Botch-Jones, forensic toxicologist and instructor in the Biomedical Forensic
Sciences program in the department of anatomy and neurobiology at BUSM.
Botch-Jones believes with this new technique, forensic toxicology
laboratories will benefit from rapid drug analysis with minimal sample
preparation and lead to more efficient workflow and identification of a
greater variety of drugs.
This research was performed in collaboration with Dr. Claude Mallet at Waters Corporation and the use of their instrumentation.