Caroline Pollard

Caroline is currently completing her PhD in Analytical Sciences at King’s Forensics, King’s College London. Her thesis aim is to utilise latent fingerprints for the detection of illicit drugs with an emphasis on MDMA. Specifically, she has developed a point-of-care test to test this novel matrix. Caroline holds a BSc in Biomedical Sciences, also from King’s College London, focusing on pharmacology and neuroscience. As part of her degree, she undertook a year in industry at the Drug Control Centre which sparked her interest in analytical science and detecting illicit drugs in biological matrices. Previously she has worked at the Biological Mass Spectrometry Centre at UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health as a Research Assistant. Future research aims include understanding different applications of the point-of-care test developed as part of her PhD.

Evaluation of latent fingerprints for drug screening in a social care setting

Studies previously employing point-of-care test (POCT) successfully identified illicit drugs in latent fingerprints (LFPs) but these tests have not been used in health and social care settings. This pilot study trialled a POCT using LFPs in a social care setting where a quick and confidential screening test is required.

Parents with a history of drug use were tested on either an ad-hoc or routine basis. The LFP cartridge (DOA114, IFP Ltd, UK) tested for benzoylecgonine (BZE), morphine and amphetamines. LFP tests (DOA150 confirmation cartridge, IFP Ltd, UK) were confirmed using UPLC-MS/MS alongside oral fluid (OF). A comparison between screening and confirmation test results was undertaken.

In total, 131 screening tests were conducted on 36 subjects (53% female). BZE/cocaine (14%), opiates (25%), amphetamine (1%) and cocaine with opiates (10%) were all detected. Out of 32 LFP confirmation samples, 69% were cocaine positive (median: 1400 pg/print). The most common opioid was 6-monoacetylmorphine (15%; median: 194 pg/print). In OF, Δ⁹-tetrahydrocannabinol was the dominant analyte (15%; median: 26 ng/mL) followed by cocaine (9%; median: 14.5 ng/mL). 6-Monoacetylmorphine was the main opioid identified (5%; median: 3 ng/mL) with dihydrocodeine also being detected (0.8%, median: 65 ng/mL).

Overall, the LFP POCT successfully detected illicit cocaine use and opioids in client samples. Cocaine was the most frequently detected analyte in LFP screening and confirmation samples. In OF, tetrahydrocannabinol was also observed. Factors affecting concentration detection may include: drug’s physiochemical properties, time of drug administration and the dose consumed.

Poster link: Evaluation of latent fingerprints for drug-screening in a social care setting