Helping to distinguish primary from secondary transfer events for trace DNA

Duncan Taylor, Alex Biedermann, Lydie Samie, Ka Man Pun, Tacha Hicks, Christophe Champod

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    35 Citations (Scopus)


    DNA is routinely recovered in criminal investigations. The sensitivity of laboratory equipment and DNA profiling kits means that it is possible to generate DNA profiles from very small amounts of cellular material. As a consequence, it has been shown that DNA we detect may not have arisen from a direct contact with an item, but rather through one or more intermediaries. Naturally the questions arising in court, particularly when considering trace DNA, are of how DNA may have come to be on an item. While scientists cannot directly answer this question, forensic biological results can help in discriminating between alleged activities. Much experimental research has been published showing the transfer and persistence of DNA under varying conditions, but as of yet the results of these studies have not been combined to deal with broad questions about transfer mechanisms. In this work we use published data and Bayesian networks to develop a statistical logical framework by which questions of transfer mechanism can be approached probabilistically. We also identify a number of areas where further work could be carried out in order to improve our knowledge base when helping to address questions about transfer mechanisms. Finally, we apply the constructed Bayesian network to ground truth known data to determine if, with current knowledge, there is any power in DNA quantities to distinguish primary and secondary transfer events.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)155-177
    Number of pages23
    JournalForensic Science International: Genetics
    Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017


    • Activity level propositions
    • Bayesian networks
    • Data
    • Likelihood ratio
    • Primary transfer
    • Secondary transfer


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