Aims: Measurement of ethyl glucuronide (EtG) in nail, as a biomarker for alcohol intake, has recently been suggested as alternative to measurement in hair. The aim of this study was to compare levels of EtG in nail and hair, and to investigate the elimination kinetics of EtG in fingernails during an alcohol abstinent period.
Methods: Overall, 40 subjects (median estimated daily intake of ethanol (EDI) 92.5 g/day) were recruited from an alcohol rehabilitation clinic. Nail and hair samples were collected at inclusion and nail clippings were collected every 7-10th day for up to 12 weeks.
Results: All patients showed higher nail EtG/EDI ratios compared to hair EtG/EDI ratios (P < 0.001). The median value of the ratios between EtG in nail and EtG in hair was 5.0 (range: 1.07-56.1). There was a significant correlation between nail EtG/EDI and hair EtG/EDI (Spearman's ρ = 0.638, P < 0.001). EtG disappeared from nails after ~2 months of abstinence and the median calculated EtG half-life in nail clippings was 13.3 days (range: 5.5-29.0). There was a significant correlation between the time elapsed to last positive sample for nail EtG and nail EtG levels at time of inclusion (Spearman's ρ = 0.449, P = 0.004).
Conclusion: The present data indicate that EtG cut-off levels in nails should be higher compared to the established 30 pg/mg EtG cut-off in hair representing heavy drinking. EtG may disappear faster from nail than expected from nail growth physiology.
Short summary: Nails are an alternative matrix to hair when measuring ethyl glucuronide (EtG). The present study indicate that EtG cut-off levels in nails should be higher compared to the established 30 pg/mg EtG cut-off in hair representing heavy drinking, and EtG may disappear faster from nail than expected.
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