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Researchers develop fingerprint technology to detect heroin use or contact

Researchers develop fingerprint technology to detect heroin use or contact

A group of researchers from the University of Surrey have developed an advanced fingerprint detection technology that can immediately tell if an individual took or touched heroin, even if the person tried to wash it off, the university announced. The university claims the technology can also detect if the person used heroin or simply shook hands with someone else who touched it.

Last year, researchers from the university developed a quick fingerprint test method to distinguish cocaine users from heroin users. According to their study, one in 10 people have traces of cocaine or heroin on their fingerprints. The research was published by Clinical Chemistry.

The new drug testing technology leverages high resolution mass spectrometry that detects heroin, 6-monoacetylmorphine (6-AM) and other analytes. The group collected fingerprints from people in rehab clinics who had used heroin or cocaine in the past 24 hours. They were asked to wash their hands and wear nitrile gloves before collecting their fingerprints a second time. Fingerprints were also collected from 50 drug non-users.

Traces of heroin and 6-AM were found on drug non-users, even though they washed their hands after touching or handing the drug, or just shook hands with someone who handled heroin.

When comparing data taken from users and non-users, researchers found that analytes such as morphine, noscapine and acetylcodeine – alongside heroin and 6-AM – were key in identifying individuals who had actually used heroin from those who just came in contact with the drug.

“Our results have shown that this non-invasive and innovative technology is sensitive enough to identify class A drugs in several scenarios – even after people have washed their hands using varying methods,” said Dr. Catia Costa from the University of Surrey. “Crucially, our study shows that the process of hand washing is important when trying to assess whether someone has used a class A drug.”

“Our team here at the University of Surrey believes that the technology we are developing will make our communities safer and shorten the route for those who need help to beat their addictions,” said Dr. Melanie Bailey from the University of Surrey. “We also believe the technology has scope in other areas, such as confirming whether a patient is taking their medication.”

The research is explained in a paper published by The Journal of Analytical Toxicology.

Harrow County Children and Family Care in the UK began testing people for use of heroin and other drugs with fingerprint technology earlier this year.

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