The complexities of DNA transfer during a social setting

Mariya Goray, Roland A.H. van Oorschot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Citations (Scopus)


When questions relating to how a touch DNA sample from a specific individual got to where it was sampled from, one has limited data available to provide an assessment on the likelihood of specific transfer events within a proposed scenario. This data is mainly related to the impact of some key variables affecting transfer that are derived from structured experiments. Here we consider the effects of unstructured social interactions on the transfer of touch DNA. Unscripted social exchanges of three individuals having a drink together while sitting at a table were video recorded and DNA samples were collected and profiled from all relevant items touched during each sitting. Attempts were made to analyze when and how DNA was transferred from one object to another. The analyses demonstrate that simple minor everyday interactions involving only a few items in some instances lead to detectable DNA being transferred among individuals and objects without them having contacted each other through secondary and further transfer. Transfer was also observed to be bi-directional. Furthermore, DNA of unknown source on hands or objects can be transferred and interfere with the interpretation of profiles generated from targeted touched surfaces. This study provides further insight into the transfer of DNA that may be useful when considering the likelihood of alternate scenarios of how a DNA sample got to where it was found.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-91
Number of pages10
JournalLegal Medicine
Issue number2
Early online date13 Oct 2014
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • DNA
  • Social setting
  • Trace
  • Transfer


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