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Drug Test Anal. 2012 Jul-Aug;4(7-8):668-74. doi: 10.1002/dta.1334. Epub 2012 Feb 28.

Development of an electrospray LC-MS/MS method for quantification of Δ(9) -tetrahydrocannabinol and its main metabolite in oral fluid.

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  • 1Roche Diagnostics GmbH, Penzberg, Germany.


A fast and sensitive reference method for quantification of Δ(9) -tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and its main metabolite 11-nor-9-carboxy-Δ(9) -tetrahydrocannabinol (THCCOOH) in oral fluid is described in this study. Samples were collected using an oral specimen collection device, followed by solid-phase extraction and liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry analysis. Chromatographic separation of the analytes was achieved by gradient elution on a reversed-phase column with subsequent detection by electrospray triple quadrupole mass spectrometry in positive ionization multiple reaction monitoring mode. Quantification was performed by means of deuterated analogues of the analytes as internal standards. Total run time of the assay was 12 min. The method allowed sensitive quantification of both analytes at a limit of quantification of 0.2 ng/ml. This sensitivity is essential for analysis of samples collected with the Intercept Oral Fluid Collection device (OraSure) and an assay for simultaneous quantification of THC and THCCOOH in saliva has not yet been described. The calibration curves for THC and THCCOOH were linear in the range between 0.25 and 8 ng/ml (r(2)  > 0.99). Ion suppression effects from endogenous or exogenous interferences were investigated using selected model substances (albumin, ascorbic acid, bilirubin, hemoglobin, breath spray, cigarette, chewing gum, chewing tobacco, candy, tooth whitening, and Tums antacid). These substances were chosen because of the high probability of their presence in the collected samples. None of the 11 endogenous model interferences altered the accuracy of analysis, demonstrating good robustness of the method with respect to interferences in common hygiene products, medicine, tobacco and naturally occurring endogenous substances.

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