Quantification of Cefepime, Meropenem, Piperacillin, and Tazobactam in Human Plasma Using a Sensitive and Robust Liquid Chromatography-Tandem Mass Spectrometry Method, Part 1: Assay Development and Validation

Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2018 Aug 27;62(9):e00859-18. doi: 10.1128/AAC.00859-18. Print 2018 Sep.


The highly variable pharmacokinetics of β-lactam antibiotics and β-lactamase inhibitors poses a significant challenge to clinicians in ensuring appropriate antibiotic doses in critically ill patients. Therefore, routine monitoring of plasma concentrations is important for individualization of antimicrobial therapy. Accordingly, a simple and robust analytical method for the simultaneous measurement of multiple β-lactam antibiotics and β-lactamase inhibitors is highly desirable to ensure quick decisions on dose adjustments. In this study, a sensitive, simple, and robust method for the simultaneous quantification of cefepime, meropenem, piperacillin, and tazobactam in human plasma was developed and rigorously validated according to FDA guidance. Sample extraction was accomplished by simple protein precipitation. Chromatographic separation of analytes was achieved using stepwise gradient elution. Analytes were monitored using tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS) with a turbo ion spray source in positive multiple-reaction-monitoring mode. The calibration curve ranged from 0.5 to 150 μg/ml for cefepime, 0.1 to 150 μg/ml for meropenem and piperacillin, and 0.25 to 150 μg/ml for tazobactam. Inter- and intraday precision and accuracy, sensitivity, selectivity, dilution integrity, matrix effect, extraction recovery, and hemolysis effect were investigated for all four analytes, and the results met the acceptance criteria. Compared to other reported methods, our method is more robust because of the combination of the following features: (i) a simple sample extraction procedure, (ii) a short sample run time, (iii) a wide dynamic range, and (iv) the small plasma sample volume needed. Since our method already covers β-lactams and a β-lactamase inhibitor with highly heterogeneous physicochemical properties, further antibiotic candidates may easily be incorporated into this multianalyte method.

Keywords: LC-MS/MS; assay development; human plasma; validation; β-lactams.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / blood*
  • Cefepime / blood*
  • Chromatography, Liquid / methods*
  • Humans
  • Meropenem / blood*
  • Piperacillin / blood*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Tazobactam / blood*
  • beta-Lactams / pharmacokinetics*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • beta-Lactams
  • Cefepime
  • Meropenem
  • Tazobactam
  • Piperacillin