The use of phosphate buffered saline for the recovery of cells and spermatozoa from swabs

Sci Justice. 2006 Jul-Sep;46(3):179-84. doi: 10.1016/S1355-0306(06)71591-X.


In the forensic science laboratory, the recovery of spermatozoa from vaginal swabs, or vaginal cells from penile swabs, can help determine if sexual intercourse may have taken place. There are several methods used to recover spermatozoa and cells from the swabs before visualisation on a microscope slide and most of these methods use water. Phosphate buffered saline (PBS) is a non-toxic solution used in many biological laboratories. Unlike water, PBS prevents cells rupturing or shrivelling up due to osmosis. This study demonstrates that PBS can be used for the extraction of spermatozoa and cells from swabs and that PBS does not affect subsequent DNA profiling.

MeSH terms

  • Buffers
  • DNA / analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Phosphates / chemistry*
  • Potassium Compounds / chemistry
  • Semen
  • Sodium Chloride / chemistry*
  • Specimen Handling / methods
  • Spermatozoa*
  • Vagina / cytology


  • Buffers
  • Phosphates
  • Potassium Compounds
  • Sodium Chloride
  • DNA
  • potassium phosphate
  • sodium phosphate