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Research Article| Volume 63, 102819, March 2023

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A global snapshot of current opinions of next-generation sequencing technologies usage in forensics

Published:December 09, 2022DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fsigen.2022.102819

      Highlights

      • General knowledge and experience to NGS applies to forensic laboratories worldwide.
      • Limited funding and training have the largest impact on NGS implementation plans.
      • Main concerns include lack of bioinformatics support and statistical applications.
      • In the 1–5 years, CE will remain the main technology, with an increase of NGS.
      • A gradual CE to NGS technology shift is expected in 5–10 + years.

      Abstract

      The future of forensic DNA testing is being shaped by the research and usage of next-generation systems, which have increased the multiplexing capabilities of the field and the type and amount of genetic data that can be utilized for investigations. The NGS adoption for casework has been slow, albeit the plethora of data that has been published. This study evaluated the current opinions on sequencing in forensics. A 20-question online-survey focusing on NGS knowledge, training, and usage was distributed to 6001 forensic DNA researchers and practitioners worldwide. A total of 367 responses were obtained from all continents (North/South America (69.8%), Europe (21.2%), Asia (5.5%), Oceania (2.5%), and Africa (1%)). The respondents consisted of 50% practitioners, 31% researchers, and 19% both. Of these, 38% already own a next-gen sequencing instrument, and 13% are planning to purchase one. Overall, there exists an extensive knowledge on next-gen sequencing within the forensic community, including among laboratories that have not yet implemented this high-throughput technology in their workflows. Current usage focuses primarily on SNP analysis for investigative leads and mitochondrial DNA analysis while future applications included both STR and SNP testing applied to general casework. The major overall concerns respondents have for implementing a sequencing instrument include limited funding, staffing, lack of time, and the cost-effectiveness of providing this service. Specific technical concerns that the respondents had are the lack of training, statistical applications, bioinformatics support, and of rigorous guidelines and recommendations. Most of the respondents do believe there will be a technology shift from using CE only to the use of NGS on casework in 5–10 years. In addition, around 66% of respondents believe that it is moderately to very likely that the court will accept sequencing analysis. Sixteen percent fell in the middle, and the remaining 15% believe it is more unlikely, with 3% of respondents believing it is very unlikely. In conclusion, this work outlines current analytical challenges experienced by the global forensic DNA community and addresses different strategies for the implementation of next-gen sequencing technologies in casework.

      Keywords

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