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Test developed at UEA uses sweat to detect drugs, takes just 10 minutes, and works on the living and dead

PUBLISHED: 07:52 09 October 2018 | UPDATED: 07:52 09 October 2018

A revolutionary drug test developed from research carried out at the University of East Anglia (UEA) can detect four classes of drugs in traces of sweat found in a fingerprint. Photo: UEA

A revolutionary drug test developed from research carried out at the University of East Anglia (UEA) can detect four classes of drugs in traces of sweat found in a fingerprint. Photo: UEA

UEA

A revolutionary drug test developed from research carried out at the University of East Anglia (UEA) can detect four classes of drugs in traces of sweat found in a fingerprint - and the technology works on both the living and dead.

Norfolk police could soon use the technology and it also works when used by UK coroners to detect drugs in the sweat of fingerprint samples gathered from the dead.

The Intelligent Fingerprinting Drug Screening System enables the detection of amphetamines, cannabis, cocaine and opiates from a single fingerprint sample in just ten minutes.

Founded in 2007, Intelligent Fingerprinting is a spin-out company from UEA. The Drug Screening System works by analysing the sweat from a fingerprint sample.

Unlike conventional screening methods which require the collection of saliva or urine samples, the technique is non-invasive, dignified and non-biohazardous.

Emeritus Professor David Russell, from UEA’s School of Chemistry, was a co-author of the research and is Intelligent Fingerprinting’s founder and chief scientific officer.

He said: “This new research highlights how our lateral flow drug screening cartridge can screen rapidly for drug use in individuals using a fingerprint sample with a sample collection time of only five seconds, and a total analysis time of ten minutes.

“Our study also showed how our technology is being used by coroners to assist in gaining early understanding of the possible cause of death, and to inform potential further post-mortem activities or quickly facilitate police investigations.

“We matched the coroners’ drug test results obtained using our fingerprint drug screen with a second sample tested in laboratory conditions, achieving excellent correlation in terms of accuracy,” he added.

“We also compared our results with toxicological analysis of blood and urine samples, with a good correlation of results.”

Dr Paul Yates, from the company, added: “This important research demonstrates how there is sufficient sweat present in a subject’s fingerprint, regardless of whether the person is alive or dead, to enable our fingertip-based drug screening system to detect the presence of four major drugs of abuse at the same time.”

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