Science Thursday: Scientists Weary of So-Called HIV ‘Fingerprint’ Testing


Scientists discuss the limitations of a new genetic forensic test that is being used in HIV transmission prosecutions, North Carolina and Kentucky consider bills to regulate forensics, errors in New York and Indiana laboratories affect prosecutions and the National Academy of Science reviews the science behind the FBI’s anthrax investigation.  Here’s a roundup of forensic news:

In a recent issue of Lancet Infectious Diseases, a medical journal,

scientists warned that HIV phylogenetic analysis, or “HIV fingerprinting”, cannot definitively establish whether a specific individual transmitted HIV to another person

. The authors wrote the article in response to the article published on this technique and emphasized the need for scientists to recognize the limitations of the technique as a basis for proving HIV criminal transmission.

A Kentucky bill would require all nursing homes in the state to

report all deaths to the local coroner

so evidence could be gathered in the event there is a case of abuse or neglect.

The North Carolina House passed H27

, the Forensic Sciences Act, to create more oversight for the State Bureau of Investigation Crime Laboratory.  The bill now goes to the Senate.


Nine defendants in New York criminal drug cases will be notified after inaccuracies were found

in the 2007-2009 processing of the drug samples by the Nassau County crime lab. The drug section of the lab was shut down and District Attorney Kathleen Rice remarked that

questionable lab tests make it impossible for prosecutors to proceed

with trials against alleged drug dealers.

Since errors were found in toxicology testing at the Indiana State Crime Lab, attorneys for a defendant charged with a DUI

asked the judge to delay trial until the audit is completed

and until the laboratory can prove its blood test is valid.

Two and a half years after the suicide of Dr. Bruce Ivins, a National Academy of Sciences report released this week confirms that genetic analysis of samples from the domestic anthrax attacks

“did not definitively demonstrate” that the anthrax spores were cultivated in Dr. Bruce Ivin’s laboratory

.  The report calls for new attention to possible evidence of anthrax found at a primitive lab used by Al Qaeda. 

The University System of Georgia Board of Regents approved a

new Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science program with a concentration in Chemistry or Biology

at Savannah State University.

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