Research paper| Volume 54, 102561, September 2021

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The level of DNA an individual transfers to untouched items in their immediate surroundings

  • Lucas Puliatti
    School of Biological Sciences, Flinders University, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide, South Australia 5001, Australia
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  • Oliva Handt
    School of Biological Sciences, Flinders University, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide, South Australia 5001, Australia

    Forensic Science SA, PO Box 2790, Adelaide, South Australia 5000, Australia
    Search for articles by this author
  • Duncan Taylor
    Correspondence to: Forensic Science SA, GPO Box 2790, Adelaide, South Australia 5001, Australia.
    School of Biological Sciences, Flinders University, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide, South Australia 5001, Australia

    Forensic Science SA, PO Box 2790, Adelaide, South Australia 5000, Australia
    Search for articles by this author


      • DNA collection devices were placed at varying distances from individuals.
      • Amount of deposited DNA was measured at varying time points for each distance.
      • Time, distance and donor all had an effect on DNA transfer frequency and amount.
      • This provide useful data to assign probabilities in activity level evaluation.
      • Information should be used when considering contamination prevention practices.


      Due to advances in DNA profiling sensitivity as well as the implementation of various types of software to analyse these profiles, forensic biologists can provide opinions about results generated from very low levels of template DNA. The ability to obtain DNA profiles from such ‘trace’ DNA brings into question the mechanisms of transfer which led to it being deposited. This study investigates the level of DNA that is deposited by an individual to their work environment. DNA collection plates were placed at distances from 0.5 to 5 m from individuals’ office desks and left for 1 day to 6 weeks before being swabbed and profiled with GlobalFiler. The results from this study indicate that an individual can deposit DNA in areas they were present, even if surfaces and/or objects were not directly contacted and even after only one day. Distance from a person, the length of time and the person themselves all play a role in the quantity of DNA that is deposited to one’s surroundings.


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