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Quantification of phosphatidylethanol 16:0/18:1, 18:1/18:1, and 16:0/16:0 in venous blood and venous and capillary dried blood spots from patients in alcohol withdrawal and control volunteers


Phosphatidylethanol species (PEths) are promising biomarkers of alcohol consumption. Here, we report on the set-up, validation, and application of a novel UHPLC-ESI-MS/MS method for the quantification of PEth 16:0/18:1, PEth 18:1/18:1, and PEth 16:0/16:0 in whole blood (30 μL) and in venous (V, 30 μL) or capillary (C, 3 punches (3 mm)) dried blood spots (DBS). The methods were linear from 10 (LLOQ) to 2000 ng/mL for PEth 16:0/18:1, from 10 (LLOQ) to 1940 ng/mL for PEth 18:1/18:1, and from 19 (LLOQ) to 3872 ng/mL for PEth 16:0/16:0. Extraction efficiencies were higher than 55 % (RSD < 18 %) and matrix effects compensated for by IS were between 77 and 125 % (RSD < 10 %). Accuracy, repeatability, and intermediate precision fulfilled acceptance criteria (bias and RSD below 13 %). Validity of the procedure for determination of PEth 16:0/18:1 in blood was demonstrated by the successful participation in a proficiency test. The quantification of PEths in C-DBS was not significantly influenced by the hematocrit, punch localization, or spot volume. The stability of PEths in V-DBS stored at room temperature was demonstrated up to 6 months. The method was applied to authentic samples (whole blood, V-DBS, and C-DBS) from 50 inpatients in alcohol withdrawal and 50 control volunteers. Applying a cut-off value to detect inpatients at 221 ng/mL for PEth 16:0/18:1 provided no false positive results and a good sensitivity (86 %). Comparison of quantitative results (Bland-Altman plot, Passing-Bablok regression, and Wilcoxon signed rank test) revealed that V-DBS and C-DBS were valid alternatives to venous blood for the detection of alcohol consumption.

Passing-Bablok regression analysis of PEth 16:0/18:1 concentrations measured in blood and in capillary DBS, demonstrating equivalence of PEth concentrations in both matrices

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The authors wish to thank all the staff from the Brugmann Hospital and the Military Hospital in Brussels for their contribution and all volunteers for their collaboration.

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Correspondence to Christophe P. Stove.

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The authors have no relevant affiliations or financial involvement with any organization or entity with a financial interest in or financial conflict with the subject matter or materials discussed in the manuscript. This includes employment, consultancies, honoraria, stock ownership or options, expert testimony, grants or patents received or pending, or royalties. No writing assistance was utilized in the production of this manuscript.

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Kummer, N., Ingels, AS., Wille, S.M.R. et al. Quantification of phosphatidylethanol 16:0/18:1, 18:1/18:1, and 16:0/16:0 in venous blood and venous and capillary dried blood spots from patients in alcohol withdrawal and control volunteers. Anal Bioanal Chem 408, 825–838 (2016).

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  • Biological samples
  • Drug monitoring/drug screening
  • Forensics/toxicology
  • Sampling