High-throughput and Comprehensive Drug Surveillance Using Multisegment Injection-capillary Electrophoresis Mass Spectrometry

J Vis Exp. 2019 Apr 23:(146). doi: 10.3791/58986.


New analytical methods are urgently needed to enable high-throughput, yet comprehensive drug screening, given an alarming opioid and prescription drug crisis in public health. Conventional urine drug testing based on a two-tier immunoassay screen followed by a gas chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (GC-MS/MS) or liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) method are expensive and prone to bias while being limited to targeted panels of known drugs of abuse (DoA). Herein, we outline an improved method for drug surveillance that allows for the resolution and detection of an expanded panel of DoA and their metabolites when using multisegment injection-capillary electrophoresis-mass spectrometry (MSI-CE-MS). Multiplexed separations of ten urine samples with a quality control by CE (< 3 min/sample) in conjunction with full-scan data acquisition using a time-of-flight mass spectrometer (TOF-MS) under positive ion mode detection allows for the identification and quantification of DoA above recommended cut-off levels. An excellent resolution of drug isomers and isobars, including background interferences, are achieved when using MSI-CE-MS with an electrokinetic spacer between sample segments, where accurate mass/molecular formula together with the comigration of a matching deuterated internal standard and the detection of one or more bio-transformed metabolites facilitate DoA identification over a wider detection window. Additionally, urine samples can be analyzed directly without enzyme deconjugation for the rapid screening without complicated sample workup. MSI-CE-MS enables the surveillance of a broad spectrum of DoA that is required for the treatment monitoring of high-risk patients, including confirming prescribed drug adherence, revealing illicit drug use/substitution, and evaluating optimal dosage regimes as required for new advances in precision medicine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Electrophoresis, Capillary*
  • Humans
  • Injections
  • Mass Spectrometry*
  • Quality Control
  • Substance-Related Disorders / urine*