An immunoaffinity chromatographic (IAC) method for isolating sulfamethazine (SMZ) from incurred urine samples was developed. This was achieved by (i) generating polyclonal antibodies that recognize equally well SMZ and its major urinary metabolites, (ii) evaluating in an ELISA procedure the influence of methanol, salt and pH on the antigen-antibody interaction in order to determine the optimum conditions for IAC and (iii) covalent coupling of the IgG fractions of anti-SMZ to CNBr activated Sepharose for the preparation of re-usable immunoaffinity columns, having a high capacity for SMZ (1900 ng SMZ mL-1 gel). For desorbing SMZ from the immunoaffinity column, different elution modes were evaluated, with 40% MeOH-0.1 mol L-1 HOAc-0.5 mol L-1 NaCl being the most efficient combination. Using the IAC column for processing SMZ spiked urine samples resulted in high recoveries, ranging from 92 to 100%. Because of the high cross-reactivity with the major metabolites of SMZ present in urine of treated animals, the antibodies show excellent properties for use in both IAC and ELISA. For the isolation and concentration of the parent drug and its major metabolites, the urine could be applied directly to the IAC column, without the time-consuming step of deconjugation. Moreover, the use of IAC prior to ELISA for the analysis of incurred urine samples showed good efficiency for the elimination of matrix interferences. Owing to the urine-tissue relationship, the urine concentrations can be used to predict the presence of the parent drug in tissues and so possible violations of the maximum residue limit (MRL) can be controlled.
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