Analysis of Polyhexamethylene Biguanide and Alexidine in Contact Lens Solutions Using Capillary Electrophoresis, Ultra-Performance Liquid Chromatography and Quadrupole Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometry

ACS Citation

Thompson, B. L.; Samant, V. N.; Wei, X.; David, F. D. C.; Edmunds, C. E.; Wheeler, J. M.; Phillips, K. S.; Wheeler, J. F.; Wheeler, S. K. Analysis of polyhexamethylene biguanide and alexidine in contact lens solutions using capillary electrophoresis, ultra-performance liquid chromatography and quadrupole time of flight mass spectrometry. Talanta, 2019, 205, 120056.


Polymeric biguanides, as well as quaternary ammonium compounds, are ubiquitous antimicrobial agents in healthcare. Due to the highly cationic and polymeric nature of these compounds and the complex matrices in which they are found, the analytical characterization of products containing them remains challenging. In this work an efficient, sensitive, and high-resolution separation protocol was developed to perform quantitative measurements (sub-mg L−1) of alexidine dihydrochloride (ADH) and polyhexamethylene biguanide (PHMB) in commercial multipurpose contact lens solutions (MPS). Initially, contactless conductivity (C4D) detection was explored, but lacked adequate selectivity and sensitivity to quantify PHMB or ADH in commercial MPS. To overcome these limitations, an alternative approach using solid phase extraction (SPE) followed by separation with reversed phase ultra-performance liquid chromatography (RP-UPLC) was developed for both ADH and PHMB separation and detection. The most sensitive and reliable method investigated utilized standard additions to compensate for matrix effects. For ADH, concentration values measured with the presented method were consistent with data provided by the MPS manufacturer (1.6 mg L−1) within 0.10 mg L−1. PHMB quantification in MPS products was successful at concentrations L−1 with quantitative reproducibility better than 2% RSD. Comparison of blind sample testing using the RP-UPLC method showed strong correlation (R2 = 0.939) of PHMB concentrations with results obtained by the United States Food and Drug Administration using a published HPLC-Evaporative light scattering detection (ELSD) assay. A significant advantage of this method is the ability to partially resolve PHMB polydispersity, which to date has been minimally studied and explained. By coupling with electrospray mass spectrometry (MS), a general trend was observed for increased retention as a function of PHMB chain length. The improved robustness and reproducibility of UV detection versus ELSD coupled with the superior resolving power of UPLC is an asset to the detection and characterization of PHMB and ADH. In addition to quality control of MPS, this method has potential application to the analyses skin wipes, wound dressings and other medical products where understanding how manufacturing processes lead to differences in polydispersity is important to maximize the antimicrobial properties while minimizing toxicologic effects.

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