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Forensic Sci Int. 2000 Jan 10;107(1-3):249-59.

Hair analysis by immunological methods from the beginning to 2000.


Immunoassays for hair testing must satisfy three requirements: (1) They must have cross-reactivity with parent drug and lipophilic metabolites actually found in hair (2) they must not experience interference from the dissolved hair matrix and (3) they must be titered for cutoffs appropriate to the drug concentrations found in hair. Because the analytes found in hair after drug use are generally the parent drug or its lipophilic metabolites, immunoassays developed and intended for urine testing are not suitable for hair. Immunoassays whose antibodies are bound to a solid support, such as coated-tube radioimmunoassay or coated-plate ELISA tests, experience less matrix interference than those which use other means of separation of bound and free fractions. Homogenous assays are not suitable for hair testing because the hair matrix frequently interferes in the detection of the signal. Historically radioimmunoassays for drugs of abuse were first used for detecting drugs in hair. Currently ELISAs and coated-plate 96 well microplate EIAs are employed for screening hair digests or extracts for drugs. The optimum cutoffs for immunoassays for drugs in hair should be chosen based on the analyte concentration which produces the fewest false positive or false negative results when applied to tests of hair from known users and non-users of drugs. A hair immunoassay test at these cutoffs should have a sensitivity and specificity of better than 90%. The predictive value of the test will depend on the prevalence of drug use in the tested population. Cutoffs or decision thresholds for immunoassays used for screening for drugs should not be at the limit of detection of the assay because that produces a very large incidence of false positives. Because immunoassays are ligand-binding assays, they have a short range of linearity with low precision at both ends of the range. In the future, immunoassays will continue to be used for screening hair and other matrices for drugs of abuse because they provide rapid, inexpensive automated procedures for separating negative specimens from those which are suspected of containing drugs. For forensic purposes, all positive results must be confirmed by an independent analysis using a procedure based on a different property of the analyte. An immunoassay test should not be confirmed by a second immunoassay test but by a chromatographic test performed on a different dissolved or extracted aliquot of the original specimen.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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