Enhanced forensic DNA recovery with appropriate swabs and optimized swabbing technique

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Efficient sampling with swabs is crucial for optimal forensic DNA analysis. The DNA recovery is determined by the skill of the practitioner and the compatibility between the applied swab and the surface. Here we investigate the impact of swabbing technique and swab type on the DNA yield. Thirteen different swabs from four categories (cotton, flocked nylon, small foam and large foam) provided equal DNA yields for smooth/non-absorbing surfaces. Large foam swabs gave higher DNA recovery for an absorbing wood surface. Factorial design of experiments and ANOVA was applied to study swabbing techniques for cotton swabs. Two key factors for efficient sampling were found to be 1) holding the swab with an approximate 60° angle against the surface and 2) to rotate the swab during sampling. For absorbing wood, it was beneficial to wet the swab heavily. The results of the factorial experiments were used to develop swabbing protocols for different surfaces. When ten experienced practitioners sampled according to these protocols, the DNA yield was increased for ridged plastic (around 1.25 times more DNA) and absorbing wood (2.2–6.2 times more DNA). For window glass, representing a smooth/non-absorbing surface, sampling according to the protocol gave DNA yields equivalent to applying individual sampling techniques. The protocol lowered person-to-person variation for ridged plastic. In conclusion, we have developed instructive protocols for cotton swab sampling on three types of surfaces: smooth/non-absorbing, ridged/non-absorbing and smooth/absorbing. We believe that such swabbing protocols will streamline and simplify the training of new practitioners and improve sampling efficiency for invisible DNA residues in casework.

Details

Authors
Organisations
External organisations
  • Swedish National Forensic Center
  • Linköping University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Forensic Science

Keywords

  • Cotton swab, Crime scene, Foam swab, Forensic DNA analysis, Nylon-flocked swab, Sampling
Original languageEnglish
Article number102491
JournalForensic Science International: Genetics
Volume53
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes