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A universal strategy to interpret DNA profiles that does not require a definition of low-copy-number


In this paper we critically examine the causes of the underlying confusion that relates to the issue of low-template (LT) DNA profile interpretation. Firstly, there is much difficulty in attempting to distinguish between LT-DNA vs. conventional DNA because there is no discrete ‘cut-off’ point that can be reasonably defined or evaluated. LT-DNA is loosely characterised by drop-out (where alleles may be missing) and drop-in (where additional alleles may be present). We have previously described probabilistic methods that can be used to incorporate these phenomena using likelihood ratio (LR) principles. This is preferred to the random man not excluded (RMNE) method, because we cannot identify a coherent way forward within the restrictions provided by this framework. Most LT-DNA profiles are interpreted using a ‘consensus’ profile method, we called this the ‘biological model’, where only those alleles that are duplicated in consecutive tests are reported. We recognise that there is an increased need for probabilistic models to take precedence over the biological model. These models are required for all kinds of DNA profiles, not just those that are believed to be low-template. We also recognise that there is a need for education and training if the methods we recommend are to be widely introduced.

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