Researchers recently discovered that, fingerprints could provide a ‘non-invasive’ and ‘hygienic’ alternative to current drug testing methods.
Led by the University of Surrey, a team of researchers from the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NL), the National Physical Laboratory (UK), King’s College London (UK) and Sheffield Hallam University (UK), used different types of analytical chemistry technique known as Mass Spectrometry to analyse the fingerprints of patients attending drug treatment services.
They tested these prints against more commonly used saliva samples to determine whether the two tests correlated. While previous fingerprint tests have employed similar methods, they have only been able to show whether a person had touched cocaine, and not whether they have actually taken the drug. According to lead author, Dr.Melanie Bailey:
When someone has taken cocaine, they excrete traces of benzoylecgonine and methylecgonine as they metabolise the drug, and these chemical indicators are present in fingerprint residue. For our part of the investigations, we sprayed a beam of solvent onto the fingerprint slide (a technique known as Desorption Electrospray Ionisation, or DESI) to determine if these substances were present. DESI has been used for a number of forensic applications, but no other studies have shown it to demonstrate drug use.”
Researchers believe that the applications for this test could be far-reaching. Researchers tested the fingerprints from patients attending drug treatment services against the more traditional method of analyzing saliva samples. The study showed the test could be as accurate as conventional methods.
The beauty of this method is that, not only is it non-invasive and more hygienic than testing blood or saliva, it can’t be faked. By the very nature of the test, the identity of the subject is captured within the fingerprint ridge detail itself,” added Dr. Bailey.
It is anticipated that this technology could see the introduction of portable drug tests for law enforcement agencies to use within the next decade.
We are only bound by the size of the current technology. Companies are already working on miniaturised mass spectrometers, and in the future portable fingerprint drugs tests could be deployed. This will help to protect the public and indeed provide a much safer test for drug users,” said Dr Bailey.
What a total game-changer in the world of investigation!