Imaging mass spectrometry: a new way to distinguish dermal contact from administration of cocaine, using a single fingerprint†
Here we show a new and significant application area for mass spectrometry imaging. The potential for fingerprints to reveal drug use has been widely reported, with potential applications in forensics and workplace drug testing. However, one unsolved issue is the inability to distinguish between drug administration and contamination by contact. Previous work using bulk mass spectrometry analysis has shown that this distinction can only be definitively made if the hands are washed prior to sample collection. Here, we illustrate how three mass spectrometry imaging approaches, desorption electrospray ionisation (DESI), matrix assisted laser desorption ionisation (MALDI) and time of flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF-SIMS) can be used to visualise fingerprints at different pixel sizes, ranging from the whole fingerprint down to the pore structure. We show how each of these magnification scales can be used to distinguish between cocaine use and contact. We also demonstrate the first application of water cluster SIMS to a fingerprint sample, which was the sole method tested here that was capable of detecting excreted drug metabolites in fingerprints, while providing spatial resolution sufficient to resolve individual pore structure. We show that after administration of cocaine, lipids and salts in the fingerprint ridges spatially correlate with the cocaine metabolite, benzoylecgonine. In contrast after contact, we have observed that cocaine and its metabolite show a poor spatial correlation with the flow of the ridges.