This research investigates factors influencing the transfer of DNA to handled objects and the process known as ‘shedding’. Volunteers were recruited to hold sterile plastic tubes using experiments originally designed by Lowe et al. (A. Lowe, C. Murray, J. Whitaker, G. Tully, P. Gill, The propensity of individuals to deposit DNA and secondary transfer of low level DNA from individuals to inert surfaces, Forensic Sci. Int. 129 (2002) 25–34). Transferred cellular material was collected from the tubes and STR profiles generated using the AmpFlSTR SGM Plus™ multiplex with 28 and 34 PCR cycles. Volunteers were asked to hold the tubes with each hand, and to participate in a series of handwashing experiments. The DNA profiling results obtained from the transferred skin cells were compared. An attempt was made to characterize the volunteers as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ shedders and to establish which, if any, of the experimental variables were associated with ‘good’ shedding. Our results suggest that many factors significantly influence shedding, including which hand an individual touches an item with and the time that has elapsed since they last washed their hands. We have found that it may be more complicated than previously reported to categorise a person as being either a ‘good’ or a ‘bad’ shedder and that if truly ‘good’ shedders exist they may be significantly rarer than some have estimated. In the current research no ‘good’ shedders were observed in a group of 60 volunteers. Given these results, it seems that rather than being applied to individual forensic cases, knowledge of shedding characteristics will be most useful in providing general background data for the interpretation of trace DNA evidence.
Forensic Science International – Elsevier
Published: May 24, 2007
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