Study of measurement of the alcohol biomarker phosphatidylethanol (PEth) in dried blood spot (DBS) samples and application of a volumetric DBS device

Clin Chim Acta. 2018 Apr;479:38-42. doi: 10.1016/j.cca.2018.01.008. Epub 2018 Jan 5.


Phosphatidylethanol (PEth) is a group of phospholipids formed in cell membranes following alcohol consumption. PEth measurement in whole blood samples is established as a specific alcohol biomarker with clinical and medico-legal applications. This study further evaluated the usefulness of dried blood spot (DBS) samples collected on filter paper for PEth measurement. Specimens used were surplus volumes of venous whole blood sent for routine LC-MS/MS quantification of PEth 16:0/18:1, the major PEth homolog. DBS samples were prepared by pipetting blood on Whatman 903 Protein Saver Cards and onto a volumetric DBS device (Capitainer). The imprecision (CV) of the DBS sample amount based on area and weight measurements of spot punches were 23-28%. Investigation of the relationship between blood hematocrit and PEth concentration yielded a linear, positive correlation, and at around 1.0-1.5μmol/L PEth 16:0/18:1, the PEth concentration increased by ~0.1μmol/L for every 5% increase in hematocrit. There was a close agreement between the PEth concentrations obtained with whole blood samples and the corresponding results using Whatman 903 (PEthDBS=1.026 PEthWB+0.013) and volumetric device (PEthDBS=1.045 PEthWB+0.016) DBS samples. The CV of PEth quantification in DBS samples at concentrations≥0.05μmol/L were ≤15%. The present results further confirmed the usefulness of DBS samples for PEth measurement.

Keywords: Alcohol biomarker; DBS; Dried blood spot; PEth; Phosphatidylethanol.

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Dried Blood Spot Testing*
  • Glycerophospholipids / blood*
  • Humans
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry


  • Biomarkers
  • Glycerophospholipids
  • phosphatidylethanol