Evaluation of the efficiency of Isohelix™ and Rayon swabs for recovery of DNA from metal surfaces

Dan O.M. Bonsu, Denice Higgins, Julianne Henry, Jeremy J. Austin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: We investigated the recovery and extraction efficiency of DNA from three metal surfaces (brass, copper, steel) relevant to forensic casework, and plastic (control) using two different swabbing systems; Rayon and Isohelix™ swabs, with sterile water and isopropyl alcohol respectively, as the wetting solutions. Methods: Twenty nanograms of human genomic DNA were applied directly to Isohelix™ and Rayon swabs; and to the metal and plastic substrates. All substrates were left to dry for 24 h, followed by single wet swabbing and extraction with the DNA IQ™ System. DNA extracts were quantified using real time quantitative PCR assays with SYBR green chemistry. Results: DNA was extracted from directly seeded Isohelix™ swabs with a high efficiency of 98%, indicating effective DNA-release from the swab into the extraction buffer. In contrast, only 58% of input DNA was recovered from seeded Rayon swabs, indicating higher DNA retention by these swabs. Isohelix™ swabs recovered 32 – 53% of DNA from metal surfaces, whilst the Rayon swabs recovered 11—29%. DNA recovery was lowest from copper and highest from brass. Interestingly, Rayon swabs appeared to collect more DNA from the plastic surface than Isohelix™ swabs, however, due to the lower release of DNA from Rayon swabs they returned less DNA overall following extraction than Isohelix™ swabs. Conclusion: These results demonstrate that DNA samples deposited on metal surfaces can be more efficiently recovered using Isohelix™ swabs wetted with isopropyl alcohol than Rayon swabs wetted with sterile water, although recovery is affected by the substrate type.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-207
Number of pages9
JournalForensic Science, Medicine, and Pathology
Issue number2
Early online date12 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • Collection efficiency
  • Extraction efficiency
  • Isohelix™ swab
  • Metal surfaces
  • Rayon swab
  • Release efficiency


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