International Journal of Legal Medicine

, Volume 132, Issue 4, pp 1035–1042 | Cite as

Investigation of DNA transfer onto clothing during regular daily activities

  • Travis Ruan
  • Mark Barash
  • Peter Gunn
  • David Bruce
Original Article


Low levels of DNA from an unidentified human source, often referred to as trace DNA, are ubiquitous, can be transferred onto objects by either direct or indirect methods and have an unknown longevity in situ. Clothing items from crime scenes are often submitted for trace DNA analysis, usually in attempt to identify a person of interest. This study examined the transfer of DNA onto three 10 × 10 cm areas located on the front, back and shoulder of an individual’s external clothing (n = 300) during a regular day’s activity. After wearing for a day, the DNA quantity on all three areas increased approximately 8-fold, which usually corresponded with an increase in the endogenous DNA from the wearer on the front area of the shirt. However, the back area of the shirt was more likely to demonstrate mixtures of endogenous and extraneous DNA. An additional study was also carried out to examine whether domestic laundering is a possible mechanism for the transfer of foreign DNA onto freshly laundered items and revealed that 74% of UV-treated cotton swatch samples produced DNA profiles after laundry with household garments. In summary, this study highlights the ease of DNA transfer onto an individual’s external clothing during a regular day, and that extraneous DNA may be already on the clothing item prior to it being worn. The study provides empirical data to assist in the interpretation of trace DNA profiles and support a Bayesian approach to estimate statistical likelihoods for the transfer of foreign DNA.

Graphical abstract


DNA transfer Trace Clothing Genotyping 



We would like to thank all volunteers who participated in this study and New South Wales Health Pathology, Forensic and Analytical Science Service for supplying DNA testing resources and for the analyses of the DNA profiles.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Research involving human participants

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

414_2017_1736_MOESM1_ESM.docx (249 kb)
Supplementary Fig. 1 (DOCX 248 kb).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Forensic ScienceUniversity of Technology SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.New South Wales Health Pathology, Forensic and Analytical Science ServiceLidcombe, NSWAustralia

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