Phosphatidylethanol (PEth) represents a group of glycerophospholipid homologues where ethanol by phospholipase D has been bound at the position that normally contains an amino-alcohol. Since the formation of PEth is specifically dependent on ethanol, the diagnostic specificity of PEth as an alcohol biomarker is theoretically 100%. The half-life of PEth in blood is approximately 4 days. The amount of alcohol consumed correlates to blood concentration of PEth and PEth has been shown to be a more sensitive indicator of alcohol consumption than traditional alcohol markers, such as CDT (carbohydrate-deficient transferrin), GGT (γ-glutamyl transferase), and MCV (mean corpuscular volume) or a combination of these. Almost all clinical data so far available are based on a high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) method with limited analytical sensitivity. With the advent of methods with considerably higher analytical sensitivity (e.g. mass spectrometric methods), clinical sensitivity will increase correspondingly. The possibility of determining very low concentrations of PEth by new sensitive analytical techniques may, however, have both ethical and legal consequences that have to be considered. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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