Unintentional effects of cleaning a crime scene—when the sponge becomes an accomplice in DNA transfer
DNA transfer in aqueous solutions as well as the persistence of DNA on washed items has become a major subject of research in recent years and is often a significant problem in court. Despite these approaches, the question about the “mobility” of DNA especially in capital offenses cannot be answered in every case, since a variety of scenarios for DNA transfer are possible. The aim of this study was to investigate whether DNA traces could be distributed by cleaning an object. For this purpose, a large table surface and fabric piece were artificially provided with skin contact traces and body fluids (saliva and blood) in two series of experiments and then wiped off with water or with soap water (218 samples in total). These experiments resulted in a clear “carry over” of DNA traces especially for body fluid samples (100% of blood samples and 75% of saliva samples led to a complete profile). The results could be confirmed in a second experimental set-up with 384 samples using different cleaning agents and more intense cleaning actions. Even small amounts of 5–10 μl body fluid led to complete profiles in around 45% of the samples, while 20 μl led to nearly 65% complete profiles. A strong impact of the amount of traces and the chosen surface could be demonstrated, while the active component of the cleaning agent seemed to be of less influence with the explicit exception of chloric agents which rendered almost everything completely DNA-free. In summary, a distribution of DNA traces by wiping or scrubbing an object could be clearly proven.
KeywordsPersistence of DNA Cleaning Cleaning agents Clothing STR analysis Low copy number DNA
Compliance with ethical standards
All samples were obtained after informed consent and with the approval of the Medical Ethics Committee at the University of Duisburg-Essen in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki and national laws.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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