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Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom. 2007;21(24):3956-62.

Carbon isotopic ratio analysis by gas chromatography/combustion/isotope ratio mass spectrometry for the detection of gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) administration to humans.

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  • 1Laboratoire Suisse d'Analyse du Dopage, Institut Universitaire de Médecine Légale, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois et Université de Lausanne, Chemin des Croisettes 22, 1066 Epalinges, Switzerland.


Since GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyric acid) is naturally produced in the human body, clinical and forensic toxicologists must be able to discriminate between endogenous levels and a concentration resulting from exposure. To suggest an alternative to the use of interpretative concentration cut-offs, the detection of exogenous GHB in urine specimens was investigated by means of gas chromatography/combustion/isotope ratio mass spectrometry (GC/C/IRMS). GHB was isolated from urinary matrix by successive purification on Oasis MCX and Bond Elute SAX solid-phase extraction (SPE) cartridges prior to high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) fractioning using an Atlantis dC18 column eluted with a mixture of formic acid and methanol. Subsequent intramolecular esterification of GHB leading to the formation of gamma-butyrolactone (GBL) was carried out to avoid introduction of additional carbon atoms for carbon isotopic ratio analysis. A precision of 0.3 per thousand was determined using this IRMS method for samples at GHB concentrations of 10 mg/L. The (13)C/(12)C ratios of GHB in samples of subjects exposed to the drug ranged from -32.1 to -42.1 per thousand, whereas the results obtained for samples containing GHB of endogenous origin at concentration levels less than 10 mg/L were in the range -23.5 to -27.0 per thousand. Therefore, these preliminary results show that a possible discrimination between endogenous and exogenous GHB can be made using carbon isotopic ratio analyses.

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