UK Scientists Detect Condom Lubricant

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UK scientists detect condom lubricant on fingerprints for first time

A technique being developed at Sheffield Hallam University in the United Kingdom can reportedly prove whether a person made contact with a condom, potentially placing them at the scene of a sexual assault. The method, developed by researchers at the university’s Biomedical Research Centre (BMRC), can detect condom lubricant on fingerprints left by a suspect at a crime scene.

According to a January 19 press release, it is hoped that the technique might be used to match lubricant found on a fingerprint with residues from vaginal swabs collected from the victim.

Researchers detected lubricant from two widely available condom brands on fingerprints, and the technique was proven to be successful on fingerprints left several weeks prior to analysis. They believe there may be potential to identify distinctive lubricants that could indicate a specific condom manufacturer—or even a particular brand.

Researchers used matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionisation mass spectrometry imaging, a technology used to map fingerprint ridge patterns.

In the press release, Dr. Simona Francese of the university’s BMRC said, “Offenders are increasingly aware of forensic issues and it is common now for condoms to be used and removed from the scene of a sexual assault. However, they are less likely to consider the possibility of lubricant transferring onto their fingertips and then into fingermarks left at the scene.

“If condom lubricant is detected in fingermarks it would improve the evidence for the prosecution by establishing the assailant’s presence at the scene and, crucially, having had contact with a condom. This would enable forensic scientists to provide further support to the evidence in alleged cases of sexual assault.”

A paper, “A novel matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionisation mass spectrometry imaging based methodology for the identification of sexual assault suspects”, was published in the February 15, 2011 edition of the journal, Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry.

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