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Booze Tests Tell All About Our Drinking
The new tests, developed and validated by a multinational team, could provide a comprehensive picture of someone's drinking habits, revealing when they had last been drinking and whether they are heavy or light drinkers.
There are a number of existing methods of telling whether someone has been drinking after alcohol itself has vanished from the body, but almost all of them rely on indirect evidence, such as levels of liver enzymes in the blood. Because other toxins or even pregnancy can cause similar changes, none of these tests is very reliable.
In the past decade, however, various groups world-wide have been studying breakdown products unique to alcohol. One of these indicators, ethyl glucuronide (EtG), starts accumulating in blood as alcohol levels decline. The presence of EtG could show whether drivers or workers who have been involved in an accident were drunk at the time, even if they are not tested until hours or days later.
EtG lasts for up to five days in urine, and confirms beyond all doubt that someone has had a drink in that time. Another test that looks for phosphatidyl ethanol (PEth) which lasts for up to three weeks in the blood of people who consume more than around three beers a day, or the equivalent.
Looking at the combined levels of four fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEEs) in hair provides an even longer-term measure of alcohol consumption. In the latest study, the team monitored around 40 drinkers and teetotallers, and showed that FAEE levels in hair can distinguish between light and heavy drinkers.
MEDICA.de, Source: New Scientist