International Journal of Legal Medicine

, Volume 130, Issue 1, pp 121–125 | Cite as

DNA transfer—a never ending story. A study on scenarios involving a second person as carrier

  • Janine Helmus
  • Thomas Bajanowski
  • Micaela Poetsch
Short Communication


The transfer of DNA directly from one item to another has been shown in many studies with elaborate discussions on the nature of the DNA donor as well as material and surface of the items or surrounding features. Every DNA transfer scenario one can imagine seems to be possible. This evokes more and more intricate scenarios proposed by lawyers or attorneys searching for an explanation of the DNA of a certain person on a distinct item with impact on a crime. At court, the forensic genetic scientist has to comment on the probability of these scenarios thus calling for extensive studies on such settings. Here, the possibility of an involvement of a second person as a carrier of the donor’s DNA in a variety of different scenarios including three pairs of people and two kinds of items (textiles and plastic bags) was investigated. All transfer settings were executed with and without gloves on the carrier’s hands. DNA left on the items was isolated and analyzed using the Powerplex® ESX17 kit. In 21 out of 180 samples, all alleles of the donor DNA could be obtained on the second item (12 %), on eight samples, the donor’s DNA was dominant compared to all other alleles (38 % of samples with complete donor profile). Additionally, 51 samples displayed at least more than half of the donor’s alleles (28 %). The complete DNA profile of the carrier was found in 47 out of 180 samples (42 partial profiles). In summary, it could be shown that a transfer of donor DNA from epithelial cells through a carrier to a second item is possible, even if the carrier does not wear gloves.


DNA transfer Carrier STR analysis Low-copy number DNA 


Compliance with ethical standards

All samples were obtained after informed consent and with approval of the Medical Ethics Committee at the University of Duisburg-Essen in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki and national laws.

Supplementary material

414_2015_1284_MOESM1_ESM.docx (61 kb)
Figure S1 Percentages of complete profiles (cp) and partial profiles (pp) of donor DNA (above) and carrier DNA (below) in each scenario after tertiary transfer. (DOCX 61 kb)


  1. 1.
    Schneider H, Sommerer T, Rand S, Wiegand P (2011) Hot flakes in cold cases. Int J Legal Med 125:543–548PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    van Oorschot RA, Ballantyne KN, Mitchell RJ (2010) Forensic trace DNA: a review. Investig Genet 1:14PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Wickenheiser RA (2002) Trace DNA: a review, discussion of theory, and application of the transfer of trace quantities of DNA through skin contact. J Forensic Sci 47:442–450PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    van Oorschot RA, Jones MK (1997) DNA fingerprints from fingerprints. Nature 387:767PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Di Martino D, Giuffre G, Staiti N, Simone A, Todaro P, Saravo L (2004) Laser microdissection and DNA typing of cells from single hair follicles. Forensic Sci Int 146(Suppl):S155–157PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Findlay I, Taylor A, Quirke P, Frazier R, Urquhart A (1997) DNA fingerprinting from single cells. Nature 389:555–556PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Elliott K, Hill DS, Lambert C, Burroughes TR, Gill P (2003) Use of laser microdissection greatly improves the recovery of DNA from sperm on microscope slides. Forensic Sci Int 137:28–36PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Verdon TJ, Mitchell RJ, van Oorschot RA (2013) The influence of substrate on DNA transfer and extraction efficiency. Forensic Sci Int Genet 7:167–175PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Schwark T, Poetsch M, Preusse-Prange A, Kamphausen T, von Wurmb-Schwark N (2012) Phantoms in the mortuary—DNA transfer during autopsies. Forensic Sci Int 216:121–126PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Rutty GN (2000) Human DNA contamination of mortuaries: does it matter? J Pathol 190:410–411PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Fonnelop AE, Egeland T, Gill P (2015) Secondary and subsequent DNA transfer during criminal investigation. Forensic Sci Int Genet 17:155–162PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Szkuta B, Harvey ML, Ballantyne KN, van Oorschot RAH (2015) DNA transfer by examination tools—a risk for forensic casework? Forensic Sci Int Genet 16:246–254PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Meakin G, Jamieson A (2013) DNA transfer: review and implications for casework. Forensic Sci Int Genet 7:434–443PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Goray M, Mitchell JR, van Oorschot RA (2012) Evaluation of multiple transfer of DNA using mock case scenarios. Leg Med (Tokyo) 14:40–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Goray M, van Oorschot RA (2015) The complexities of DNA transfer during a social setting. Leg Med (Tokyo) 17:82–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Goray M, Eken E, Mitchell RJ, van Oorschot RA (2010) Secondary DNA transfer of biological substances under varying test conditions. Forensic Sci Int Genet 4:62–67PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Goray M, Mitchell RJ, van Oorschot RA (2010) Investigation of secondary DNA transfer of skin cells under controlled test conditions. Leg Med (Tokyo) 12:117–120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Lowe A, Murray C, Whitaker J, Tully G, Gill P (2002) The propensity of individuals to deposit DNA and secondary transfer of low level DNA from individuals to inert surfaces. Forensic Sci Int 129:25–34PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Phipps M, Petricevic S (2007) The tendency of individuals to transfer DNA to handled items. Forensic Sci Int 168:162–168PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Poetsch M, Bajanowski T, Kamphausen T (2013) Influence of an individual’s age on the amount and interpretability of DNA left on touched items. Int J Legal Med 127:1093–1096PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Kamphausen T, Schadendorf D, von Wurmb-Schwark N, Bajanowski T, Poetsch M (2012) Good shedder or bad shedder—the influence of skin diseases on forensic DNA analysis from epithelial abrasions. Int J Legal Med 126:179–183PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Daly DJ, Murphy C, McDermott SD (2012) The transfer of touch DNA from hands to glass, fabric and wood. Forensic Sci Int Genet 6:41–46PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Raymond JJ, van Oorschot RA, Gunn PR, Walsh SJ, Roux C (2009) Trace evidence characteristics of DNA: a preliminary investigation of the persistence of DNA at crime scenes. Forensic Sci Int Genet 4:26–33PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Kamphausen T, Fandel SB, Gutmann JS, Bajanowski T, Poetsch M (2015) Everything clean? Transfer of DNA traces between textiles in the washtub. Int J Legal Med 129:709–714PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Schwark T, Poetsch M, Preusse-Prange A, Kamphausen T, von Wurmb-Schwark N (2012) Phantoms in the mortuary-DNA transfer during autopsies. Forensic Sci Int 216:121–126PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    DeSalle R, Bonwich E (1996) DNA isolation, manipulation and characterization from old tissues. Genet Eng (N Y) 18:13–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Schneider PM, Fimmers R, Keil W, Molsberger G, Patzelt D, Pflug W, Rothamel T, Schmitter H, Schneider H, Brinkmann B (2009) The German Stain Commission: recommendations for the interpretation of mixed stains. Int J Legal Med 123:1–5PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Janine Helmus
    • 1
  • Thomas Bajanowski
    • 1
  • Micaela Poetsch
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Legal MedicineUniversity Hospital EssenEssenGermany

Personalised recommendations