Pre-analytical considerations of condom traces: A review of composition, background, transfer and persistence

Forensic Sci Int. 2019 Sep;302:109861. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2019.06.019. Epub 2019 Jun 20.


Today, rape and sexual assault cases are mainly solved using evidence such as medical evidence or DNA analysis. Condom traces have been found to be present in 10% of assaulted women, when no DNA is found [1]. Numerous studies have emphasized the interest of analysing the composition of male condoms and their traces, and developing specific methods for the analysis of this type of evidence. However, transfer and persistence of condom traces in a specific matrix are rarely referenced. Therefore, forensic scientists have no complete knowledge of the trace and what could be expected in a real case. The purpose of this article is to review the literature addressing the composition of condoms and their traces as well as its influence on the transfer and persistence from a forensic point of view. Peer-reviewed literature, patents, professional literature, data from international administrations and international organisations' reports have been used to track the composition and the problematics of transfer and persistence of condom traces. The results of this review show that the composition of male condoms and their traces are complex systems, with numerous compounds originating from the condom at the moment of the transfer and evolving over time according to specific persistence patterns. Although numerous types of analyses have already been proposed and tested for condom traces, forensic evidence considerations have not been fully studied yet. Considering the fact that sexual assaults without the detection of DNA are increasingly frequent, there is a definite medical and forensic need to improve our knowledge of the processes involved in the development of condom traces in order to better understand analytical results.

Keywords: Activity; Composition; Influence factors; Lubricants; Persistence; Transfer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anesthetics, Local / analysis
  • Antioxidants / analysis
  • Condoms*
  • Dimethylpolysiloxanes / analysis
  • Female
  • Flavoring Agents / analysis
  • Forensic Medicine
  • Humans
  • Latex / analysis
  • Lubricants / analysis
  • Male
  • Nitrosamines / analysis
  • Odorants / analysis
  • Polyethylene / analysis
  • Polyethylene Glycols / analysis
  • Powders
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical / analysis
  • Sex Offenses*
  • Spermatocidal Agents / analysis
  • Starch / analysis
  • Vagina / chemistry*


  • Anesthetics, Local
  • Antioxidants
  • Dimethylpolysiloxanes
  • Flavoring Agents
  • Latex
  • Lubricants
  • Nitrosamines
  • Powders
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical
  • Spermatocidal Agents
  • Polyethylene Glycols
  • baysilon
  • Polyethylene
  • Starch