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Friday, May 22, 2015

New Fingerprint Test for Cocaine

A thumbprint may be all it takes to determine if someone has used cocaine. The test, which uses mass spectrometry, can distinguish whether cocaine was ingested, rather than just touched, Science Daily reports. The test is non-invasive and cannot be faked.

The novel test for determining cocaine use came from a team of researchers at the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NL), the National Physical Laboratory (UK), King's College London (UK) and Sheffield Hallam University (UK). Former tests were unable to determine whether or not an individual had taken the drug, or merely touched it, according to the article.

"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," said lead author Dr Melanie Bailey from the University of Surrey.

"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."

Methods of testing for drug use that do not involve bodily fluid could have a huge impact. Many argue that urine tests invade people's privacy, and blood examinations put the lab technicians at risk. Finger testing would be the best for both parties.

"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," added Dr Bailey. "By the very nature of the test, the identity of the subject is captured within the fingerprint ridge detail itself."

The findings were published in the journal Analyst.

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