An improved ion-pairing reversed-phase high-performance liquid chromatography method coupled with evaporative light scattering detection (HPLC-ELSD) was developed to determine spectinomycin and its related substances in commercial samples. The method was validated in accordance with International Conference on Harmonization (ICH) guidelines. The specificity of the HPLC-ELSD method was similar to that of the European Pharmacopoeia (Ph. Eur.) method, and repeatability and robustness were markedly improved relative to other reported methods due to our empirical evaluation of separation columns. Indeed, it is a more specific assay of spectinomycin than traditional microbiological techniques. The HPLC-ELSD method was used to evaluate the impurity profiles of eight compounds in seven spectinomycin batches from five different companies. Liquid chromatography coupled with electrospray ionization-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-ESI-MS/MS) was employed to characterize the structures of these compounds. Though the HPLC-ELSD method was not as sensitive as the Ph. Eur. method, its limit of quantitation (LOQ) (0.16%) was lower than the disregard limit (0.3%) described by the Ph. Eur. 7.0. This suggests that the HPLC-ELSD method is appropriate for routine analysis of spectinomycin and its related substances.
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