Comparison of three DNA extraction methods tested on illicit drug-related powders

Amy Griffin, K. Paul Kirkbride, Julianne Henry, Ben Painter, Adrian Linacre

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1 Citation (Scopus)
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The detection of human DNA on and within illicit drug preparations is novel and a focus of current research. Previous studies have indicated that certain drug-related powders present in illicit drug preparations can interfere with downstream DNA analysis when directly added to the PCR. Therefore, it is important to determine if these drug-related powders are effectively removed during the DNA extraction or whether traces of powder remain to interfere with DNA processing. Three extraction methods were selected to assess their efficiency at removing drug-related powders for downstream processes using DNA from both saliva and touch depositions. This is the first study to compare efficiencies of DNA extraction methods from drug-related powders. The extraction methods compared were the DNA IQ™ System, the QIAamp® DNA Investigator Kit and the combination of a simple lysis step followed by use of the Microcon® DNA Fast Flow device. Saliva was added to dimethylsulfone (DMS), nitrostyrene and PROSOLV® tablet mixture to determine the effect of powder type (based on solubility). Saliva was also added to 0, 50, 200 and 400 mg of DMS to determine the effect of an increase in DMS quantity. Trace DNA was deposited onto DMS using a worn glove approach. These samples were re-tested six months post-DNA deposition and profiled for further comparisons. Ten replicates were conducted for each condition with five replicates of saliva positive controls per method (n = 255 samples). A subset of samples was chemically analysed to determine if DMS was present in the final DNA eluant. The readily soluble DMS did not interfere with any of the extraction methods at lower amounts, however increasing the DMS to 400 mg reduced the relative DNA yields using the Microcon® and Investigator methods. The tablet mixture reduced the relative DNA yield of all three methods, however the nitrostyrene (which was relatively insoluble) only reduced the relative DNA yield of the DNA IQ™. The Investigator method performed the best with the trace samples, followed by the Microcon® method and then the DNA IQ™. DMS was detected in all extracts chemically analysed from the DNA IQ™ and Microcon®, whereas only one sample tested from the Investigator kit contained DMS in the extract and was in a relatively low amount compared to the other samples. Not one kit outperformed the others in all comparisons, however the Investigator kit was the most efficient overall at optimising the DNA yield whilst also removing the powders more effectively.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102927
Number of pages10
JournalForensic Science International: Genetics
Early online date10 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023


  • Illicit drugs
  • Drug profiling
  • 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine
  • Methamphetamine
  • Trace DNA
  • DNA extraction


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