Pierre Negri


Need a reliable, crowd-sourced HR-MS database for screening Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS)?

The recent influx of novel psychoactive substances (NPS) into the recreational drug market has posed a serious burden to public health. The availability of these substances through the Internet has contributed to the widespread of NPS globally, raising great concern as little to no scientific information is available on them. As a result, it has become challenging to determine the effects that these substances may have on users in both the long and short-term. In fact, users are usually unaware of the content and the dosage of the psychoactive substances contained in the products they consume, often causing more harm than the substances they are designed to mimic. Meanwhile, public health professionals are scratching their heads, trying to implement measures to counteract the spread of these substances.

Forensic and clinical laboratories are therefore tasked with the challenge of detecting and identifying these potent NPS whose chemical formulas and structures are initially unknown. Screening for NPS in biological samples (blood, urine, hair, etc) require the use of multiple analytical targets, depending on the route of administration and the distribution, metabolism and excretion profile of the given NPS. A common approach to address this challenge is the use of liquid chromatography-high-resolution mass spectrometry (LC-MS). The acquisition of mass spectra provides a molecular fingerprint of the NPS that can be compared to MS spectral libraries covering thousands of analytical targets. Although their number is large, most NPS have a low prevalence of use worldwide. As a result, keeping these screening libraries up to date with the relevant analytical targets and sharing it across forensic and clinical laboratories worldwide has become a challenge.

To address this challenge, a group of researchers created the HighResNPS database (www.HighResNPS.com), an online crowd-sourced mass spectral database for HR-MS screening of NPS. The database is aimed to keep HR-MS libraries of NPS up to date while compiling analytical information from the moment a specific NPS becomes available to a given participating laboratory. To do so, diagnostic fragment ions are recorded by the acquisition of MS/MS spectra, enabling NPS identification in biological samples and/or seized samples when no reference standard is available. The database can thus serve as a useful add-on to a lab’s current in LC-MS screening workflows.

To make this compound fragment mass database accessible to its users, SCIEX is regularly converting the database to a LibraryView software format to make it searchable against data acquired on SCIEX instruments. This enables the simplified building of MRMHR workflow methods and of target/suspect screening processing methods in SCIEX OS software. In addition, this tool can be used in quantitation method development by import from library on the components table, or import and autofill in an MRMHR method editor.

The use of this compound fragment mass database will enable forensic and clinical laboratories alike to freely exchange HR-MS data of suspect and non-targeted screening of NPS and stay up to date more easily in this constantly evolving field. With this powerful community-based tool in hand, researchers can stay better informed of the emergence of NPS and share the findings worldwide, which can ultimately help public health and law enforcement agencies as they work to reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with NPS.


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