Evaluation of mass spectrometric methods for detection of the anti-protozoal drug imidocarb

A. F. Lehner, J. A. Hitron, J. May, C. Hughes, R. Eisenberg, N. Schwint, D. P. Knowles, P. Timoney, T. Tobin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Imidocarb [N,N'-bis[3-(4,5-dihydro-1H-imidazol-2-yl)phenyl]urea, C19H20N6O1, m.w. 348.41] is a symmetrical carbanilide derivative used to treat disease caused by protozoans of the Babesia genus. Imidocarb, however, is also considered capable of suppressing Babesia-specific immune responses, allowing Babesia-positive horses to pass a complement fixation test (CFT) without eliminating the infection. This scenario could enable Babesia-infected horses to pass CFT-based importation tests. It is imperative to unequivocally identify and quantify equine tissue residues of imidocarb by mass spectrometry to address this issue. As a pretext to development of sensitive tissue assays, we have investigated possibilities of mass spectrometric (MS) detection of imidocarb. Our analyses disclosed that an unequivocal mass spectral analysis of imidocarb is challenging because of its rapid fragmentation under standard gas chromatography (GC)-MS conditions. In contrast, solution chemistry of imidocarb is more stable but involves distribution into mono- and dicationic species, m/z 349 and 175, respectively, in acid owing to the compound's inherent symmetrical nature. Dicationic imidocarb was the preferred complex as viewed by either direct infusion-electrospray-MS or by liquid chromatography (LC)-MS. Dicationic imidocarb multiple reaction monitoring (MRM: m/z 175 → 162, 145, and 188) therefore offer the greatest opportunities for sensitive detection and LC-MS is more likely than GC-MS to yield a useful quantitative forensic analytical method for detecting imidocarb in horses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-204
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Analytical Toxicology
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was made possible by research support from The National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and the Alabama; Arizona; Arkansas; Canada; Charles Town, WV; Florida; Iowa; Kentucky; Louisiana; Michigan; Minnesota; Nebraska; Ohio; Oklahoma; Ontario, Canada; Oregon; Pennsylvania; Tampa Bay Downs, Florida; Texas; Washington State; and West Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Associations.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Toxicology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Chemical Health and Safety


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