Journal Article

Enzymatic Assay for GHB Determination in Forensic Matrices

Vincent Grenier, Geneviève Huppé, Martine Lamarche and Pascal Mireault

in Journal of Analytical Toxicology

Volume 36, issue 7, pages 523-528
Published in print September 2012 | ISSN: 0146-4760
Published online June 2012 | e-ISSN: 1945-2403 | DOI:
Enzymatic Assay for GHB Determination in Forensic Matrices

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  • Medical Toxicology
  • Toxicology (Non-medical)


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Current procedures for the determination of gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) require time-consuming extraction and derivatization steps before chromatographic detection, making a high-throughput alternative desirable. Bühlmann Laboratories offers an enzymatic assay for the quantitative determination of GHB in urine and serum. We report the adaptation of this photometric assay to the Thermo Scientific MGC-240 analyzer and its use in the determination of GHB in forensic matrices including urine, whole blood and vitreous humour. Most matrices require only a brief centrifugation before analysis, while blood requires an additional protein precipitation step. A variety of cases (sexual assaults, impaired drivers and death investigations) have been analyzed alongside the gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC–MS) reference method. Correlation with the GC–MS has been found to be acceptable, with no false negatives and few false positives, although postmortem samples appear more prone to testing false positive than do antemortem samples. Simple sample preparation and high throughput allow for a significant reduction in analysis time relative to chromatographic methods. This assay is used as a screening method in our laboratory, with a quantitative GC–MS method serving for the confirmation of positive results. To our knowledge, this represents the first evaluation of an enzymatic assay for GHB in a forensic context.

Journal Article.  4344 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Medical Toxicology ; Toxicology (Non-medical)

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