The stability of an antibiotic is a very important characteristic, especially in the field of antibiotic residue analysis. During method development or validation, the stability of the antibiotic has to be demonstrated no matter if the method is used for screening, confirmation, qualitative or quantitative analysis. A procedure for testing the stability of antibiotics in solutions and food samples using LC-MS/MS is described. The procedure is based on the assumption that the antibiotics are stable when stored at -70°C. Representative solutions or spiked samples containing the antibiotic were stored at the temperature to be tested (-18 or 4°C) and at -70°C. After a selected storing time samples were moved from the chosen storage temperature to -70°C. At the end of the study, all samples – per class of antibiotic – were analysed in one batch. By applying statistical models, it was finally concluded in which circumstances the antibiotic is stable. The stability of 60 antibiotics belonging to the classes of tetracyclines, sulphonamides, quinolones, penicillins, macrolides and aminoglycosides were tested. The stability of solutions containing tetracyclines and penicillins is only guaranteed for 3 months while stored at -18°C. Solutions of all other antibiotics tested are stable for at least 6 or 12 months when stored at 4°C. In muscle tissue stored at -18°C no severe degradation of the tested antibiotics was observed, with the exception of the penicillins. The stability data reported here are useful as a reference for laboratories carrying out validation studies of analytical methods for antibiotic (residue) detection. The data should save the time needed for long-term stability testing of solutions and samples.
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