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Assessing the use of environmental DNA (eDNA) as a tool in the detection of human DNA in water

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posted on 2023-07-21, 05:13 authored by M Antony Dass, CDH Sherman, YH Nai, MR Ellis, Roland OorschotRoland 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.


Publication Date



Journal of Forensic Sciences






9p. (p. 2299-2307)





Rights Statement

© 2022 The Authors. Journal of Forensic Sciences published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of American Academy of Forensic Sciences. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes.

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