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Lessons Learned: The Danger of High Testing Thresholds

For those of you who follow our #ASKtheProf series, there is an interesting case currently being heard in Australia, where the #Prof, Dr. Bruce Budowle, recently gave evidence by video link from the US to a Commission of Inquiry in Queensland, Australia into Forensic DNA Testing. This followed the release of an interim report by the QL FSL identifying serious testing shortfalls. The unusually high testing threshold adopted by the lab in 2018 was initially designed to save money and improve efficiency but resulted in thousands of crime scene evidence samples not being tested. Read more.

What is a hight testing threshold? A high testing threshold in DNA analysis refers to a set criterion or standard that determines which DNA samples undergo analysis. This threshold establishes the minimum quantity or quality of DNA required for testing. When the threshold is set high, only samples with a substantial amount of DNA meeting specific criteria are tested, potentially excluding samples with lower quantities or degraded DNA. This approach may save time and resources but could lead to crucial evidence being overlooked or untested, impacting the investigation's thoroughness and accuracy. As a developing region where FSLs are being established throughout Africa, and resources are limited, what can we learn from this case when establishing forensic platforms? The introduction of new DNA systems, like automation, should always undergo thorough testing (validation) and monitoring to ensure they enhance accuracy. There's also a need for critical evaluation before adopting new technology to prevent any impact on the reliability of results. Maintaining high-quality standards in forensic DNA analysis is critical to ensure reliability of DNA evidence. And for the established labs, the continuous review and improvement in forensic procedures are also essential for rectifying any shortcomings and for enhancing the FSL's effectiveness. Read more here.

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