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Rapid and Reliable On-Site Drug Detection Using Aptamer-based Sensors

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 2018
2 pages
This fact sheet reports on a NIJ-funded study that developed a rapid and reliable field test for identifying illegal drugs in oral fluids that is superior to the current widely used field test by law enforcement personnel.

Researchers with Florida International University have developed a simple microfluidic device that uses nucleic acid-based aptamers to better identify parent drugs and their metabolites. Aptamers are single-stranded DNA or RNA molecules that bind easily and are specific in selecting their molecular targets. Current drug field tests are typically based on how an ingested drug reacts to antibodies contained in the drug test. These antibody based immunoassay tests are fast and sensitive; however, their accuracy varies depending on the antibodies used and the drug at issue. The use of an aptamer-based test, according to the researchers, could solve the low sensitivity and poor selectivity inherent in the current antibody-based tests. They developed a low-cost, portable, paper-based microfluidic device that can detect trace amounts of drug molecules in oral fluid with high specificity. The research focused on cocaine and methamphetamine as target drugs, because they are of particular interest in the health and criminal justice fields. 1 exhibit and online access for more information on NIJ's toxicology portfolio

Date Published: March 1, 2018