A newly developed method of finding DNA in fingerprints is taking some of the guess-work out of print analysis at crime scenes.

ESR Senior Technician Alicia Haines has been working on locating DNA within finger marks using fluorescent dyes.

“Instead of swabbing an area that we’re not sure has DNA on it, we’re able to visualise it and locate it and then be able to sample that area specifically,” Dr Haines says.

“It’s much more of a DNA targeted approach.”

She says that once on the computer screen, it’s possible to see the fluorescence coming from a finger mark.

“This is where the dye is binding to DNA within the finger mark and you can see the ridge patterning within that fingerprint so you’re able to take the hand-help microscope with you and be able to find those specific areas that have DNA present and we can sample it on the spot.

“It is definitely an improvement on how we search for DNA seeing as at the moment we have no screening tool to be able to find DNA.

“We use our assumption of the likelihood of someone touching an object and where they would have touched it, whereas this is being able to find DNA and visualise it and being able to sample it where we see it.

The work is a collaboration with Flinders University which initially undertook a pilot study on the detection of DNA within finger marks using fluorescent in situ detection after different time periods of hand washing. 

Finger marks were deposited by volunteers onto glass slides at varying time intervals after hand washing. The amount of cellular debris was calculated by counting the fluorescent dots present in three fields of view and estimating the amount of transferred cellular material for each finger mark.

For more information, please contact:

0800 ESR MEDIA (0800 377 633) or


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Gael Woods