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Researchers Develop Fingerprint Test for Drug Use

Researchers from Surrey University in England worked with the Netherlands Forensic Institute and Intelligent Fingerprinting to design a fingerprint test capable of detecting cocaine and other drug use (Burch, 2017; Johnston, 2017). 


The test is called “paper spray mass spectrometry” and works by analyzing two different molecules in fingerprints that are “excreted as a person’s body metabolizes drugs” (Burch, 2017). These molecules can still be seen in fingerprint tests after subjects have washed their hands. There is a specific kind of paper used to take the fingerprints and detect the molecules, and it has a 99 percent accuracy rate (Johnston, 2017). 


“This is a real breakthrough in our work to bring a real time, noninvasive drug-testing method to the market that will provide a definitive result in a matter of minutes—we are already working on a thirty-second method,” stated researcher Dr. Melanie Bailey from Surrey University (Burch, 2017). Dr. Bailey added that the test is “hygienic and can’t be faked—by the nature of the test, the identity of the subject, and their drug use, is all captured within the sample itself” (Johnston, 2017). 


While the test can detect other drugs such as heroin, researchers are unclear as to if it “could be used to reliably detect marijuana use, or whether it can indicate a level of impairment of just the presence of drugs in a person’s system” (Burch, 2017). 


The study was published in the journal Clinical Chemistry and can be viewed by clicking here.












Burch, K. (2017). New fingerprint test may revolutionize drug testing. Retrieved from https://www.thefix.com/new-fingerprint-test-may-revolutionize-drug-testing
Johnston, I. (2017). Fingerprint test can tell if you’ve taken cocaine, even when you’ve washed your hands. Independent. Retrieved from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/fingerprint-test-cocaine-use-detect-washed-hands-illegal-drugs-sweat-surrey-university-a7961821.html