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Int J Legal Med. 2008 Mar;122(2):123-8. Epub 2007 Jun 9.

Kinetics in serum and urinary excretion of ethyl sulfate and ethyl glucuronide after medium dose ethanol intake.

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  • 1Institute of Forensic Medicine, University Hospital Freiburg, Albertstrasse 9, 79104 Freiburg, Germany.


The direct ethanol metabolites, ethyl glucuronide (EtG) and ethyl sulfate (EtS), are of increasing importance for clinical and forensic applications, but there are only few studies on the kinetics of EtG in serum and none on EtS. In this study, 13 volunteers (social drinkers) drank ethanol in the form of white wine to reach a blood alcohol concentration of 0.51 +/- 0.17 g/kg, and blood and urine samples were analyzed for EtG and EtS simultaneously by chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). Mean peak serum EtG and EtS concentrations were 2.9 +/- 1.3 and 2.8 +/- 1.6 micromol/l, respectively, and were reached between 4.0 +/- 0.9 h after the start of drinking (3.0 +/- 0.5 h for EtS). The mean time differences between reaching maximum blood ethanol levels and serum metabolite levels were 2.3 +/- 0.9 h for EtG and 1.2 +/- 0.5 h for EtS. In the last blood samples collected (10-11 h after the start of drinking), 11 (of 13) volunteers were still positive for EtG in serum, whereas only 2 were positive for EtS. In the serum of one female person, no EtS was detectable at any time; however, it was excreted in the urine in (low) concentrations. Ethanol was detectable in the serum for up to 8.6 h after the start of drinking, whereas EtG and EtS were detectable up to more than 5.8 h (EtG) and 4.0 h (EtS), respectively. Mean peak urinary concentrations were 401 +/- 232 micromol/l for EtG and 266 +/- 153 micromol/l for EtS, and mean peak levels were reached 6.2 +/- 0.9 h (EtG) and 5.3 +/- 1.2 h (EtS) after the start of drinking. Maximum concentrations of EtG and EtS in serum showed a wide interindividual variation and could not be correlated to the maximum blood ethanol concentrations. Correlations (p < 0.001, Kendall's Tau b) were found when comparing pairs of parameters, but mostly involved areas under the curve (AUC) of metabolites or of ethanol; one correlation linked the peak concentrations of EtG and EtS in urine.

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