Saliva test detects date rape drug


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A test that can detect the date rape drug γ-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB), as well as common alcohol contaminants, in saliva, has been developed by European researchers. The team say the test could be used to detect if A&E patients that appear drunk have had their drink spiked, or been poisoned by counterfeit alcohol.

As well as GHB, the test can detect methanol, ethane-1,2-diol and 1,3-propanediol, which can be present in cheap, illegally produced alcohol and can cause severe poisoning. The researchers created samples by taking saliva from healthy volunteers and adding the target chemicals in the concentrations they would expect them to be present in a patient. The compounds were then extracted from the saliva using a sampling instrument – a cylinder coated with polydimethylsiloxane that would usually be inserted straight into a patient’s mouth – and analysed using gas chromatography-differential mobility spectrometry.

The researchers found all the contaminants could be easily detected using this method, even at low concentrations. They say the approach would be easy to adopt by clinicians as most hospitals already have the necessary equipment, and are currently trialling the technique on hospital patients.

References

L Criado-García et al, J. Breath Res., 2016, DOI: 10.1088/1752-7163/10/1/017101


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