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Forensic Sci Int. 2009 Jul 1;188(1-3):140-3. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2009.04.003. Epub 2009 May 1.

Comparison of ethyl glucuronide in hair with carbohydrate-deficient transferrin in serum as markers of chronic high levels of alcohol consumption.

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  • 1Department of Legal Medicine and Public Health, University of Pavia, Via Forlanini 12, I-27100 Pavia, Italy.


This study was designed with the aim to compare sensitivity and specificity of ethyl glucuronide in hair (HEtG) and carbohydrate-deficient transferrin (CDT) in serum as markers of heavy drinking. Eighty-six volunteers, including teetotalers, social, and heavy drinkers, were interviewed to evaluate their ethanol daily intake (EDI) during the last 2-week and 3-month periods. HEtG determination was performed by a fully validated LC-MS-MS procedure and ranged from <LOD (2 pg/mg) to 890.5 pg/mg. CDT was measured by immunonephelometry or by HPLC. Sensitivity and specificity of the two markers as indicators of an EDI higher than 60 g/day were calculated, with cut-off at 27 pg/mg (HEtG) and 2.5% (CDT). Considering the EDI of the last 2 weeks, HEtG showed equal selectivity (0.93 for both HEtG and CDT-immunonephelometry; 0.70 for both HEtG and CDT-HPLC) and 2 times the sensitivity of either of the two CDT methods (1.00 vs. 0.44 for CDT-immunonephelometry; 0.96 vs. 0.50 for CDT-HPLC). The same difference in performances but with higher absolute sensitivity and selectivity values for HEtG were observed considering the EDI of the last 3-months (selectivity: 1.00 for both HEtG and CDT-immunonephelometry, 0.89 and 0.78 for HEtG and CDT-HPLC, respectively; sensitivity: 1.00 vs. 0.47 for CDT-immunonephelometry; 0.98 vs. 0.51 for CDT-HPLC). Our results indicate that HEtG, as compared to CDT measured using different methods, is a selective marker of ethanol heavy chronic use providing considerably higher sensitivity.

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