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Fingertip-sweatAnalyzer may yield evidence on cause of death--United Kingdom.

Discussions to extend the pilot launch of a new mobile drug-screening technology pioneered by British company Intelligent Fingerprinting to nine coroners' areas are under way following presentation of evaluation data to the recent Coroner's Society of England and Wales Annual Conference. The trial is validating a new noninvasive drug-screening technique that could help coroners prioritize when costly postmortems are needed and enable earlier release of the deceased for burial.

Last year 223,841 deaths were reported to coroners in England and Wales. Of these, 40% required a full postmortem examination to assist in determining the cause of death. A postmortem often includes toxicology tests to determine the presence of any drugs that might provide an insight into the cause of death. Intelligent Finger-printing's drug-screening device collects and analyzes sweat from a person's fingertip to provide information on recent drug use, with results in under 10 minutes. It could potentially be used within mortuaries to provide early evidence of drug use. The cutting-edge technology detects the metabolites within a person's fingertip sweat. Metabolites can be detected in sweat for many hours after the initial substance was ingested, providing a valuable insight into the drugs that may have been used immediately prior to death.

The Coroner's Society Conference was shown data from a pilot program being conducted by Intelligent Fingerprinting and the Sheffield Legal-Medico Centre. This trial, funded by the government agency Innovate UK, is testing potential use of the drug-screening device by coroners and mortuary staff to gather early evidence on cause of death.

With the relatives' consent, 180 fingertip-sweat samples collected from the Sheffield mortuary-representing a wide range of categories of death and preservation of bodies-were tested in Intelligent Fingerprinting's laboratory for the presence of opiates. A correlation of over 90% was achieved in samples analyzed using Intelligent Fingerprinting's technology compared with postmortem toxicology results. Samples are now being tested in real time in the mortuary using the company's portable drug-screening device; first results show a similar correlation to conventional postmortem toxicology results for opiates and cocaine. [Sources: Coroners Statistics 2014 England and Wales. Ministry of Justice Statistics bulletin, 14 May 2015, and Intelligent Fingerprinting Press Release]

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Publication:Forensic Science Review
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 1, 2016
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