Researchers Validate New Equine Drug-Testing Method

Scientists in Hong Kong validated a “dilute-and-shoot” test that can check for more than 40 difficult-to-detect drugs.

Researchers Validate New Equine Drug-Testing Method
Scientists in Hong Kong validated a “dilute-and-shoot” test that can check for more than 40 difficult-to-detect drugs. | Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse
With so many doping agents out there and new substances constantly coming into play, it can be challenging for laboratories to keep up with doping control. When timing and pricing come into play, it can be even more difficult. But researchers in Hong Kong have recently validated a new, easy, “dilute-and-shoot” method that can check for more than 40 of the most difficult-to-detect drugs simultaneously. The test is quick, easy, effective, and cost-efficient.

“By employing high-resolution mass spectrometry in the full-scan mode, we can detect, theoretically, an unlimited number of targeted drugs in a single run, provided that all these drug targets can be ionized and detected in the instrument,” said Terence S.M. Wan, PhD, EurChem, CSci, CChem, FRSC, FAORC, FCSFS, head of the racing laboratory and chief racing chemist at The Hong Kong Jockey Club. “That means new drug targets can easily be incorporated into these methods as well.”

The “dilute-and-shoot” method already exists in human doping control, but it hasn’t been adopted as a widespread method in equine testing, Wan said. Many current methods in equine testing require an intermediate step of substance extraction from the sample. This step is not only time-consuming, but it’s also “quite ineffective” for very polar (waterlike) or zwitterionic (neutral molecules having both positive and negative charges) substances because it’s hard to extract them from water-based biological fluids.

With “dilute-and-shoot,” however, there’s just a simple dilution step before injecting the sample directly into the analytical instrument. “This requires minimal effort in sample preparation, which makes it quick and easy,” Wan

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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