Analytical challenges: Determination of tetrodotoxin in human urine and plasma by LC-MS/MS

Kelvin S Y LEUNG*, Bonnie Mei Wah Fong, Yeuk Ki Tsoi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)


Tetrodotoxin (TTX) is a powerful sodium channel blocker found in puffer fish and some marine animals. Cases of TTX poisoning most often result from puffer fish ingestion. Diagnosis is mainly from patient's signs and symptoms or the detection of TTX in the leftover food. If leftover food is unavailable, the determination of TTX in the patient's urine and/or plasma is essential to confirm the diagnosis. Although various methods for the determination of TTX have been published, most of them are for food tissue samples. Dealing with human urine and blood samples is much more challenging. Unlike in food, the amount of toxin in the urine and blood of a patient is generally extremely low; therefore a very sensitive method is required to detect it. In this regard, mass spectrometry (MS) methods are the best choice. Since TTX is a very polar compound, there will be lack of retention on conventional reverse-phase columns; use of ion pair reagent or hydrophilic interaction liquid chromatography (HILIC) can help solve this problem. The problem of ion suppression is another challenge in analyzing polar compound in biological samples. This review will discuss different MS methods and their pros and cons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2291-2303
Number of pages13
JournalMarine Drugs
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Drug Discovery

User-Defined Keywords

  • Biological samples
  • Ion suppression
  • LC-MS/MS
  • TTX poisoning


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