Desomorphine ("Krokodil") is a semi-synthetic opioid that has drawn attention as a recreational drug, particularly in Russia, neighboring former Soviet Republics, Eastern and Central Europe. It has no accepted medicinal uses and is currently a schedule I drug in the United States. In clandestine environments, desomorphine is synthesized from codeine using red phosphorous, hydroiodic acid and gasoline. Residual starting materials in illicit preparations have been associated with severe dermatological effects and extensive tissue necrosis. Desomorphine is not well studied, and there are limited reports concerning its pharmacology or detection in biological matrices. Immunoassays are widely relied upon for both antemortem and postmortem toxicology screening. Although desomorphine is an opioid of the phenanthrene-type, its ability to bind to conventional opioid antibodies has not been described. In this report we describe the cross-reactivity of desomorphine using six commercially available enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (Immunalysis Opiates Direct ELISA, Immunalysis Oxycodone/Oxymorphone Direct ELISA, Randox Opiate ELISA, OraSure Technologies OTI Opiate Micro-plate EIA, Neogen Opiate Group ELISA and Neogen Oxycodone/Oxymorphone ELISA). Cross-reactivites were highly variable between assays, ranging from 77 to <2.5%. In general, assays directed towards morphine produced greater cross-reactivity with desomorphine than those directed towards oxycodone. The Immunalysis Opiates Direct ELISA produced the greatest cross-reactivity, although several of the assays evaluated produced cross-reactivity of a sufficient magnitude to be effective for desomorphine screening.
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