DNA transfer in forensic science: A review

Roland A.H. van Oorschot, Bianca Szkuta, Georgina E. Meakin, Bas Kokshoorn, Mariya Goray

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

148 Citations (Scopus)


Understanding the variables impacting DNA transfer, persistence, prevalence and recovery (DNA-TPPR) has become increasingly relevant in investigations of criminal activities to provide opinion on how the DNA of a person of interest became present within the sample collected. This review considers our current knowledge regarding DNA-TPPR to assist casework investigations of criminal activities. There is a growing amount of information available on DNA-TPPR to inform the relative probabilities of the evidence given alternative scenarios relating to the presence or absence of DNA from a specific person in a collected sample of interest. This information should be used where relevant. However, far more research is still required to better understand the variables impacting DNA-TPPR and to generate more accurate probability estimates of generating particular types of profiles in more casework relevant situations. This review explores means of achieving this. It also notes the need for all those interacting with an item of interest to have an awareness of DNA transfer possibilities post criminal activity, to limit the risk of contamination or loss of DNA. Appropriately trained forensic practitioners are best placed to provide opinion and guidance on the interpretation of profiles at the activity level. However, those requested to provide expert opinion on DNA-related activity level issues are often insufficiently trained to do so. We advocate recognition of DNA activity associated expertise to be distinct from expertise associated with the identification of individuals. This is to be supported by dedicated training, competency testing, authorisation, and regular fit for purpose proficiency testing. The possibilities for experts to report on activity-related issues will increase as our knowledge increases through further research, access to relevant data is enhanced, and tools to assist interpretations are better exploited. Improvement opportunities will be achieved sooner, if more laboratories and agencies accept the need to invest in these aspects as well as the training of practitioners.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)140-166
Number of pages27
JournalForensic Science International: Genetics
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Activity level
  • DNA
  • Persistence
  • Prevalence
  • Recovery
  • Trace
  • Transfer


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