Author ORCID Identifier

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Integrative Life Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Michelle Peace

Second Advisor

Justin Poklis

Third Advisor

Dr. Karen Hendricks-Munoz

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Gwendolyn McMillin

Fifth Advisor

Carrie Adler


An estimated 11% of neonates are affected by prenatal exposure to alcohol or drugs. Traditional neonatal matrices used for prenatal drug exposure are only available in limited quantity, difficult to collect, or require extensive sample preparation. Oral fluid, as demonstrated through its use in therapeutic drug monitoring of neonates and infants, is a desirable alternative matrix in detecting neonatal drug exposure. Oral fluid is available in large quantities, easy to collect, non-invasive, and does not require extensive sample preparation.

The overall aim of this research was to evaluate the efficacy of using oral fluid collection and analysis to mitigate challenges and limitations (i.e., limited specimen quantity, difficulty of collection, and extensive sample predation) of traditional specimens (i.e., meconium, umbilical cord, and urine) used to detect neonatal drug exposure. The research demonstrates that oral fluid is a suitable alternative matrix for the detection of neonatal drug exposure. As with other matrices, oral fluid has its limitations and requires special considerations for collection method, post-collection stability, and analytical capabilities. The selection of absorbent material can drastically affect the ability to detect drug exposure. The study proposes a neonatal oral fluid collection device composed of flocked nylon fibers affixed to a pliable applicator stick. The pliable applicator stick is connected to a syringe plunger for a needleless syringe barrel that connects to an amber storage tube containing a pH indicator. The research stresses the significance of extensive testing before adopting collection devices and the need for careful interpretation of results in their absence.


© Ashley M. Harris

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission


Available for download on Tuesday, August 08, 2028