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Fast, portable device for 'on-the-go,' laboratory-quality cocaine testing

Date:
June 25, 2014
Source:
American Chemical Society
Summary:
Testing for cocaine and other drugs usually involves two steps: a quick on-site prescreen, and then a more accurate confirmatory test at a distant laboratory. This process can take days or weeks -- but that's too long in many cases where public safety is at risk. Now, researchers report development of a backpack-sized device that can perform highly accurate and sensitive tests anywhere within 15 minutes.

As part of a portable cocaine test that takes just minutes, this microfluidic device extracts drugs of abuse from dried urine samples.
Credit: American Chemical Society

Testing for cocaine and other drugs usually involves two steps: a quick on-site prescreen, and then a more accurate confirmatory test at a distant laboratory. This process can take days or weeks -- but that's too long in many cases where public safety is at risk. Now, researchers report development of a backpack-sized device that can perform highly accurate and sensitive tests anywhere within 15 minutes. The study appears in ACS' journal Analytical Chemistry.

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Aaron Wheeler and colleagues explain that the current two-stage system of testing urine for drugs of abuse is expensive and time-consuming. The samples also could get lost or compromised while in transport. The ideal solution, they say, is to skip the prescreening step and instead bring the lab to the site -- but in an easy-to-use, portable package. Currently, when samples arrive at labs for confirmation testing, trained technicians use a "gold-standard" method, relying on sample processing, liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry to analyze them. Small versions of instruments that implement these techniques can provide results at or near lab-quality, but they haven't been optimized and tested together as a single, portable instrument. Wheeler's team set out to do just that.

They put together a compact system that can do all the steps -- extracting drugs of abuse from urine with a microfluidic device coupled to a small mass spectrometer that can identify the substances. The backpack-sized instrument could analyze cocaine, benzoylecgonine (a metabolite of cocaine) and codeine in four samples in less than 15 minutes. The amount of cocaine they could detect was compatible with limits set by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The researchers say the device could be used for many different kinds of tests in which laboratory-quality results are needed quickly.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Chemical Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Andrea E. Kirby, Nelson M. Lafreniθre, Brendon Seale, Paul I. Hendricks, R. Graham Cooks, Aaron R. Wheeler. Analysis on the Go: Quantitation of Drugs of Abuse in Dried Urine with Digital Microfluidics and Miniature Mass Spectrometry. Analytical Chemistry, 2014; 140606160002000 DOI: 10.1021/ac5012969

Cite This Page:

American Chemical Society. "Fast, portable device for 'on-the-go,' laboratory-quality cocaine testing." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140625101651.htm>.
American Chemical Society. (2014, June 25). Fast, portable device for 'on-the-go,' laboratory-quality cocaine testing. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140625101651.htm
American Chemical Society. "Fast, portable device for 'on-the-go,' laboratory-quality cocaine testing." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140625101651.htm (accessed December 21, 2014).

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