DNA transfer-a never ending story. A study on scenarios involving a second person as carrier

Int J Legal Med. 2016 Jan;130(1):121-5. doi: 10.1007/s00414-015-1284-1. Epub 2015 Oct 27.


The transfer of DNA directly from one item to another has been shown in many studies with elaborate discussions on the nature of the DNA donor as well as material and surface of the items or surrounding features. Every DNA transfer scenario one can imagine seems to be possible. This evokes more and more intricate scenarios proposed by lawyers or attorneys searching for an explanation of the DNA of a certain person on a distinct item with impact on a crime. At court, the forensic genetic scientist has to comment on the probability of these scenarios thus calling for extensive studies on such settings. Here, the possibility of an involvement of a second person as a carrier of the donor's DNA in a variety of different scenarios including three pairs of people and two kinds of items (textiles and plastic bags) was investigated. All transfer settings were executed with and without gloves on the carrier's hands. DNA left on the items was isolated and analyzed using the Powerplex® ESX17 kit. In 21 out of 180 samples, all alleles of the donor DNA could be obtained on the second item (12%), on eight samples, the donor's DNA was dominant compared to all other alleles (38% of samples with complete donor profile). Additionally, 51 samples displayed at least more than half of the donor's alleles (28%). The complete DNA profile of the carrier was found in 47 out of 180 samples (42 partial profiles). In summary, it could be shown that a transfer of donor DNA from epithelial cells through a carrier to a second item is possible, even if the carrier does not wear gloves.

Keywords: Carrier; DNA transfer; Low-copy number DNA; STR analysis.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alleles
  • DNA / analysis*
  • DNA Fingerprinting*
  • Epithelial Cells / chemistry
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microsatellite Repeats
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiplex Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Touch*


  • DNA