June 18, 2007 Russian researchers have developed a new technique for detecting occasional drug taking. While clearly having ramifications for high-profile sports and other arenas where drug testing has become an essential tool, it is hoped that the new method can assist in treatment of the disease in its early stages by detecting the presence of drugs before substance abuse reaches more frequent (and dangerous) levels.
Developed by Specialists at the Institute of Physiologically Active Substances, Russian Academy of Sciences and of the Moscow Narcological Clinical Hospital #17, the technique called “Dianarc” uses immune-enzyme analysis methods to detect narcotics specific antibodies in saliva and blood. This is different from existing analysis that rely on the detection of metabolic evidence of the drug itself.
As a disease of the brain, drug addiction usually begins with occasional use that accelerates over a period of weeks or months to become a full-blown addiction. Existing analysis techniques usually enable drugs to be detected within a few days of intake, whereas the “Dianarc” technique enables detection after 2 to 4 months with a level of accuracy exceeding 95 percent. This means that a person at risk of succumbing to drug addiction can be identified before clinical changes are apparent and the disease is not yet fully developed.
Researchers developed the technique by working with both chronic drug addicts and healthy people. Regular users of opiates, amphetamines, ephedrine or hemp preparations (cannabinoids) have increased narcotics antibody levels which researchers were able to specifically identify. The antibodies belong to the immunoglobulin proteins class and as dependence develops, immunoglobulin synthesis intensifies in the patient’s immune system. The group known as A immunoglobulins are of special interest to physicians as antibodies based on them circulate in the blood for a long time. This means a drug can be detected and identified even up to six months after it was taken.
Professor Marina Myagkova was recognized for the development of this technique by the World Intellectual Property Organization at the International exhibition of inventions in Geneva in April this year.
The application of the ‘Dianarc’ technique clearly goes well beyond its benefit to clinical and forensic medical practice. Staff recruitment, issuing licenses for weapons, driving or operating heavy machinery, elite sport administration and all other areas where drug detection is a necessary part of assessment could benefit from the research.