A method for determining the free (unbound) concentration of ten beta-lactam antibiotics in human plasma using high performance liquid chromatography with ultraviolet detection

J Chromatogr B Analyt Technol Biomed Life Sci. 2012 Oct 15:907:178-84. doi: 10.1016/j.jchromb.2012.09.016. Epub 2012 Sep 16.


With the clinical imperative to further research in the area of optimising antibiotic dosing in the intensive care setting, a simple high performance liquid chromatography method was developed and validated for routinely determining the free (unbound) concentration of ten beta-lactam antibiotics in 200 μL of human plasma. Antibiotics determined include three cephalosporins (ceftriaxone, cephazolin and cephalotin); two carbapenems (meropenem and ertapenem); and five penicillins (ampicillin, piperacillin, benzylpenicillin, flucloxacillin and dicloxacillin). There was a single common sample preparation method involving ultracentrifugation and stabilisation. Chromatography was performed on a Waters XBridge C18 column with, depending on analytes, one of four acetonitrile-phosphate buffered mobile phases. Peaks of interest were detected via ultraviolet absorbance at 210, 260 and 304 nm. The method has been validated and used in a pathology laboratory for therapeutic drug monitoring in critically ill patients. The significant variability in the level of protein binding that is common with antibiotics traditionally considered to have high protein binding (e.g. ceftriaxone, cephazolin, ertapenem, flucloxacillin and dicloxacillin) suggests that this assay should be preferred for measuring the pharmacologically active concentration of beta-lactam antibiotics in a therapeutic drug monitoring programme.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / blood*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / chemistry
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / metabolism
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid / methods*
  • Drug Monitoring / methods
  • Humans
  • Protein Binding
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Spectrophotometry, Ultraviolet
  • beta-Lactams / blood*
  • beta-Lactams / chemistry
  • beta-Lactams / metabolism


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • beta-Lactams