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A comprehensive study into false positive rates for ‘other’ biological samples using common presumptive testing methods


The identification of biological fluids or materials in forensic samples is a key requirement in forensic science that relies on chemical and biological based tests, most of which exhibit false positivity. When reporting results from such tests, Forensic Scientists use words such as probable, possible, and likely, without always being able to provide robust support for these conclusions. In collating information about false positive rates for a number of these tests, we found limited research into the cross reactions observed from ‘other’ biological samples in commonly encountered case sample stains. By ‘other’ we mean biological fluids or materials that are not the primary target of the presumptive test being used. Here we carry out a specificity study to fill gaps in the literature for a number of the presumptive chemical, biological and immunochromatographic tests used to presumptively screen for blood, semen and saliva. The tests selected for this study are the widely used tests: Luminol, TMB/Combur3 Test® E, Kastle-Meyer (KM), RSID™ - Blood, ABAcard® HemaTrace®, Acid Phosphatase (AP), ABAcard® p30, RSID™ - Semen, Phadebas® ‘Tube’ Test, Phadebas® ‘Press’ Test, and RSID™ - Saliva tests. Specificity for each of these was tested in known samples, from volunteers, of blood, semen, saliva, urine, sweat, vaginal material, faeces and breast milk, and then false positive rates were determined.

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