DNA recuperated from illicit drug capsules could be utilized to track criminal syndicates

DNA recuperated from illicit drug capsules could be utilized to track criminal syndicates


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  • Source: Flinders University

  • Date: 07 Aug,2021

After just 15 seconds of contact between drug dealers and drug manufacturers, scientists have shown for the first-time that DNA can be extracted from capsule surfaces. This will make it possible for law enforcement agencies around the globe to find criminal syndicates.

Flinders University researchers published a new study in Forensic Sciences International: Genetics. They showed that DNA taken from criminals may be used to identify those who handled illegal drugs during production, assembly, and distribution. This can be done if it matches a profile of a suspect or is already in a DNA database.

Ms. Amy Griffin, College of Science and Engineering at Flinders University, says that DNA profiles can be compared with those on other capsules in order to possibly link drug seizures all over the globe.

“This pilot study demonstrates the potential for laboratories to recover human DNA from the exterior surface of capsules which are commonly used to encase illicit drugs such as MDMA, enabling both biological and chemical profiling methods to contribute to the investigation of clandestine drug production.”

“The ability to generate profiles from 82% of capsules highlights how valuable it could be for operational forensic laboratories to sample the exterior of pill capsules.”

“Our methodology is compatible with systems already implemented in DNA laboratories, which easily facilitates the examination of illicit drug capsules for DNA. With the baseline of DNA transfer established, further research is underway by us to investigate this application when capsules are handled in a more realistic scenario encountered in police work.”

The capsules contained DNA ranging in size from 0.006 to 3.700ng with an average of 0.2767 ng. Although DNA amounts varied between volunteers and capsule types, there was no significant difference in the overall DNA quantity collected using the three types.

Professor Adrian Linacre is the Chair of Forensic DNA Technology, Flinders University. He says that the results will highlight the potential for DNA profiles to be uploaded to a criminal database in order to identify other criminal syndicate members.

If an unidentifiable DNA profile is obtained, it may still be useful for intelligence-led policing as a ‘biological profile’ to potentially link or exclude various drug seizures as originating from the same source to complement and corroborate the findings of the chemical profile.”Professor Adrian Linacre, Chair in Forensic DNA Technology, Flinders University

Journal reference:

Griffin, A., et al. (2021) DNA on drugs! A preliminary investigation of DNA deposition during the handling of illicit drug capsules. Forensic Science International: Geneticsdoi.org/10.1016/j.fsigen.2021.102559.

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