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Hojeong Yu, Hoyeon Lee, Jiyong Cheong, Sang Won Woo, Juhyun Oh, Hyun-kyung Oh, Jae-Hyun Lee, Hui Zheng, Cesar M. Castro, Yeong-Eun Yoo, Min-Gon Kim, Jinwoo Cheon, Ralph Weissleder, and Hakho Lee*
A Rapid Assay Provides On-Site Quantification of Tetrahydrocannabinol in Oral Fluid
Sci. Transl. Med., 13 (616), 1-10
Date: Oct 20, 2021

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive ingredient of cannabis, impairs cognitive and motor function in a concentration-dependent fashion. Drug testing is commonly performed for employment and law enforcement purposes; however, available tests produce low-sensitive binary results (lateral flow assays) or have long turnaround (gas chromatography–mass spectrometry). To enable on-site THC quantification in minutes, we developed a rapid assay for oral THC analysis called EPOCH (express probe for on-site cannabis inhalation). EPOCH features distinctive sensor design such as a radial membrane and transmission optics, all contained in a compact cartridge. This integrated approach permitted assay completion within 5 min with a detection limit of 0.17 ng/ml THC, which is below the regulatory guideline (1 ng/ml). As a proof of concept for field testing, we applied EPOCH to assess oral fluid samples from cannabis users (n = 43) and controls (n = 43). EPOCH detected oral THC in all specimens from cannabis smokers (median concentration, 478 ng/ml) and THC-infused food consumers. Longitudinal monitoring showed a fast drop in THC concentrations within the first 6 hours of cannabis smoking (half-life, 1.4 hours).

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