Could Secondary DNA Transfer Falsely Place Someone at the Scene of a Crime?

J Forensic Sci. 2016 Jan;61(1):196-203. doi: 10.1111/1556-4029.12894. Epub 2015 Sep 1.


The occurrence of secondary DNA transfer has been previously established. However, the transfer of DNA through an intermediary has not been revisited with more sensitive current technologies implemented to increase the likelihood of obtaining results from low-template/low-quality samples. This study evaluated whether this increased sensitivity could lead to the detection of interpretable secondary DNA transfer profiles. After two minutes of hand to hand contact, participants immediately handled assigned knives. Swabbings of the knives with detectable amounts of DNA were amplified with the Identifiler(®) Plus Amplification Kit and injected on a 3130xl. DNA typing results indicated that secondary DNA transfer was detected in 85% of the samples. In five samples, the secondary contributor was either the only contributor or the major contributor identified despite never coming into direct contact with the knife. This study demonstrates the risk of assuming that DNA recovered from an object resulted from direct contact.

Keywords: DNA analysis; Identifiler® Plus; criminalistics; forensic casework; forensic science; secondary transfer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • DNA / genetics*
  • DNA / isolation & purification
  • DNA Fingerprinting*
  • Humans
  • Microsatellite Repeats
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Touch*


  • DNA