Drug-specific monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) were produced against the very small drug hapten (162.15 Da), 5-benzimidazolecarboxylic acid, an analogue of 2-(4-Thiazolyl)benzimidazole (TBZ) but lacking the thiol group. TBZ is widely used as a broad-spectrum anthelmintic in various animal species and humans and also as a food preservative and agricultural fungicide. The anti-5-benzimidazolecarboxylic acid antibodies produced have potential use for extraction and/or detection of protein-bound residue forms of TBZ. Three in vivo immunisation regimes (with combinations of two related small drug haptens and two different adjuvants/carrier molecules) and an in vitro immunisation procedure using a combination of three related unconjugated small drug haptens were investigated. Specificity for the hapten immunogen/s was initially determined using two different ELISA procedures. BIACORE analysis, in conjunction with drug binding inhibition studies, was used to confirm the specificity of a small number of selected clones. In vivo immunisation with a drug molecule conjugated to a lipopeptide/T-cell epitope, which acts both as a carrier molecule and an adjuvant was the most useful of the methods tested for the production of specific MAbs to a typically very small hapten with low immunogenic properties.
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