Rapid detection of nine synthetic cathinones in blood and urine by direct analysis in real-time-tandem mass spectrometry

Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom. 2021 Aug 15;35(15):e9136. doi: 10.1002/rcm.9136.


Rationale: Designer drugs of cathinone, a kind of hallucinogen, were abused in the recent years. They were also known as bath salts, plant fertilizers, and zombie potions in drug market. The abuse of synthetic cathinones caused many bad effects on social order. Rapid detection of synthetic cathinones became an important subject of study in forensic science.

Methods: Direct analysis in real-time-tandem mass spectrometry (DART-MS/MS) was used to develop an effective method on nine synthetic cathinones in human whole blood and urine. The reference materials with 100 ng/mL were prepared for mass spectrometry optimization with electrospray ionization (ESI) probe tandem QTRAP 4000 mass spectrometer. The temperature of DART ion source was optimized to 400°C. The volumes of 4/1 (v/v) MeCN/MeOH with 0.69 mL were selected for the preparation of 0.31 mL blood and urine samples, respectively. Then the spiked analytes were prepared for detection by the DART 12Dip-it autosampler module.

Results: The results showed that the linearities range between 0.1 and 5 μg/mL, the correlation coefficients (r2 ) ranged from 0.99 to 1, the limits of detection (LODs) were all between 0.5 and 50 ng/mL, and the relative standard deviations (RSDs) of repeatability, intra-day and inter-day precisions were all below 13% and 14% in blood and urine, respectively.

Conclusion: The results indicated that the method could meet the needs of rapid screening of samples that may contain synthetic cathinones. In addition, the method developed has many advantages, such as efficient, fast sample preparation, and environmental protection. Therefore, the DART-MS/MS method would provide effective data support for rapid screening of synthetic cathinones in forensic science.