1207626_Dass,M_2022.pdf (521.79 kB)
Assessing the use of environmental DNA (eDNA) as a tool in the detection of human DNA in water
journal contributionposted on 2023-07-21, 05:13 authored by M Antony Dass, CDH Sherman, YH Nai, MR Ellis, Roland van OorschotRoland van Oorschot, A Durdle
Environmental DNA (eDNA) is a highly sensitive and cost-effective tool that is increasingly being applied to studies of biodiversity and species detection. This non-invasive method relies on the collection of environmental samples that contain genetic material being shed into surrounding environment by the target organism/s. While forensic science has a long history of using molecular tools for collecting DNA from the environment, the detection of human DNA from environmental water samples has been limited. This study investigated the detection and degradation rates of human eDNA in water samples under controlled laboratory conditions. Using a human-specific qPCR assay targeting the ND1 region of human mitochondrial DNA, eDNA degradation over time in water spiked with human blood was assessed. Recovery of nuclear DNA was investigated by determining if routine DNA short tandem repeat (STR) profiles of the blood source could be generated. Results demonstrated that human eDNA remains detectable for up to 11 days under laboratory conditions in environmental water and up to 35 days in distilled water. Partial STR profiles could be recovered from environmental water only up to 24 h, while, in distilled water, partial profiles continued to be recovered up to 840 h. These findings demonstrate that sampling human eDNA from aquatic samples can provide reliable human DNA detection within relatively short time windows, assisting law enforcement agencies by providing information about the potential time an individual may have been present in an area or assisting in the detection and location of a body or remains in aquatic environments.