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Gamma Irradiation as a Biological Decontaminant and Its Effect on Common Fingermark Detection Techniques and DNA Profiling


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Rebecca J. Hoile, B.Sc.
Forensic Counter Terrorism and Disaster Victim Identification Unit
NSW Police Force Headquarters
Level 5 Tower B, 1 Charles Street
New South Wales 2150


Abstract:  The use of disease-causing organisms and their toxins against the civilian population has defined bioterrorism and opened forensic science up to the challenges of processing contaminated evidence. This study sought to determine the use of gamma irradiation as an effective biological decontaminant and its effect on the recovery of latent fingermarks from both porous and nonporous items. Test items were contaminated with viable spores marked with latent prints and then decontaminated using a cobalt 60 gamma irradiator. Fingermark detection was the focus with standard methods including 1,2-indanedione, ninhydrin, diazafluoren-9-one, and physical developer used during this study. DNA recovery using 20% Chelex extraction and quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction was also explored. Gamma irradiation proved effective as a bacterial decontaminant with D-values ranging from 458 to 500 Gy for nonporous items and 797–808 Gy for porous ones. The results demonstrated the successful recovery of latent marks and DNA establishing gamma irradiation as a viable decontamination option.