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Researchers are putting the ;before spectrometry to detect new drugs

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Allen Custance, the head of Get Your Drugs Tested , uses an infrared spectrometer to test a drug sample in Vancouver, British Columbia, April 1, 2022.

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Researchers from the University of British Columbia (UBC) and the Provincial Toxicology Center (BCPTC) say they have developed a more effective way to detect the presence of new drugs in circulation.

A new study, (New window) published in the journal Analytical Chemistry (in English ), shows how high-resolution mass spectrometry can be used to analyze compounds present in urine and identify new, previously undetectable substances.

We were able to detect a number of drugs circulating in British Columbia that had not previously been identified by existing methods, says lead study author and assistant professor at Princeton University, Michael Skinnider. .

Mass spectrometry is used to identify compounds by determining their molecular mass and examining their fragmentation pattern.

Source : University Institute on Addictions of the CIUSSS du Centre-Sud-de-l' Île-de-Montréal

The research team used this method to analyze more than 12,000 urine samples collected in the province between 2019 and 2022. Their results identified the emergence of synthetic opioids on the market, such as fluorofentanyl, as well as new benzodiazepines and stimulants.

The goal: to acquire new reference data, a sort of library specific to drugs in circulation , and better inform public health services.

The danger with synthetic drugs that we know little or nothing about is not being able to inform and put forward our harm reduction approach with our users, points out Karine Lapointe, harm reduction manager at the Get Your Drugs Tested organism, which uses spectrometry, but with infrared light (FTIR).

The acquisition of new references by this method will useful according to her. By improving the libraries in our database, we will probably be able to detect more substances, she says.

Applied on a regular basis, this This process will allow us to respond more quickly to the emergence of new drugs, says Aaron Shapiro, senior author of the study and assistant professor of clinical teaching at UBC.

The British Columbia Center for Disease Control (BCCDC) plans to add this method to its analysis techniques. Since 2020, the center has identified more than 20 substances of interest and to monitor.

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