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Date-rape drug detector offers safety for women

posted 16 Aug 2011, 09:12 by Mpelembe Admin   [ updated 16 Aug 2011, 09:17 ]
Israeli scientists have developed a date-rape drug detector that could give women a fast and easy way to test the safety of their drink in a bar.

TEL AVIV, ISRAEL (AUGUST 8, 2011) REUTERS -  Israeli scientists have developed a chemical cocktail in a device as small as a needle to accurately detect date rape drugs in drinks. They say the device could turn bars and night-clubs into safer environments for women.


Other enzymatic based sensors can take up to thirty minutes before users can see whether their drinks are safe.

Professor Fernando Patolsky and Doctor Michael Ioffe, of the School of Chemistry at Tel Aviv University, say their tiny sensor, based on optical signal changes, can deliver results immediately.


Patolsky says the sensor works in real-time by alerting users instantly whether their drink has been spiked or not.

"We have developed a new sensor for the detection of club drugs. Club drugs are drugs or narcotics that are being used in order to abuse sexually. People are adding that to drinks, spiking drinks with these drugs and those are narcotics that are used to immobilise, sexually abuse people," he said.


A drop of the chemical mixture, whose ingredients have yet to be revealed, indicate the presence of GHB (gamma-hydrobuxybutyric acid) and ketamine, two of the most common date rape drugs.


"The sensor will literally suck up a sample of a drink into it where inside the sensor will be a capsule where a chemical reaction will occur between the sample of a drink and between our specially developed formulation. If there is a drug there the sensor will alarm you," said Ioffe.


The scientists say they need funding in order to mass produce their invention and to expand the sensor's capabilities to include the accurate detection of Rohypnol, another common date rape drug.


"We currently, we detect with 100 percent efficiency GHB and ketamine, we have already done some preliminary tests on Rohypnol, which is benzodiazepine and its derivitives and GBL, and we've liked the results," Ioffe added.


He said enzymatic based sensors existing in today's markets are hard to use and users need to actively perform the test and wait for up to thirty minutes for results.

"They are not specific and they are hard to use. We thought of something, that we might develop something that will be affordable, available to everyone, quick and specific and that's exactly what we've done," he said.


The detector, which Professor Patolsky and Doctor Ioffe said has been tested on dozens of different alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, has tested with 100 percent accuracy, according to the pair.


If a drink is spiked, the researchers say, club goers can be alerted on the spot by a stirring stick lighting up, rotating or even by a signal transmitted by their mobile phone.

While they already have a proof of principle, the researchers say better funding will allow them to create the first prototype and commercialise within a year and a half.

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