A comparative study for the isolation of exogenous trace DNA from fingernails

Published:January 04, 2019DOI:


      • Lysis buffer soak sampling method extracts more female endogenous degraded DNA.
      • Marginally higher likelihood ratios were obtained for the swab samples.
      • The swabbing sampling method appears to be the best sampling method.
      • If the number of contributors was underestimated then false exclusions could occur when performing mixture deconvolution using STRmix™.
      • DNA can remain under fingernails and on the skin even after showering.


      Often fingernails from a victim or suspect involved in a physical assault, such as murder or sexual assault, are submitted to crime laboratories for DNA testing of foreign/exogenous biological material; however, very few studies have been conducted comparing the effectiveness of different sampling methods on the removal of foreign/exogenous DNA while minimizing the fingernail endogenous DNA. In this study three different sampling methods (swabbing, PBS soak, and PrepFiler® lysis buffer soak) were compared in order to identify one that minimizes the amount of endogenous DNA removed and maximizes the amount of foreign/exogenous male DNA removed. The samples were processed using the Tecan HIDEVO150 robot in order to reduce analyst time and the DNA mixtures were interpreted using the probabilistic genotyping software STRmix™. For each sampling method the quantity of male DNA, the mixture proportions, the number of foreign/exogenous male alleles detected, the amount of DNA degradation, and the discrimination power via the likelihood ratio obtained for the foreign/exogenous male DNA donor were determined and compared. The PrepFiler® lysis buffer soak and swabbing sampling methods appear to be equally effective at removing foreign/exogenous DNA from fingernails; however, the lysis buffer soak sampling method extracts more female endogenous DNA from the fingernail and the female DNA is degraded. Marginally higher likelihood ratios were obtained for the swab samples versus the PrepFiler® lysis buffer soak samples; therefore, it was determined that the swabbing sampling method was the best sampling method for the recovery of foreign exogenous DNA from fingernails while minimizing the amount of endogenous DNA removed.


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