Researchers from the University of Surrey, have
developed a quick fingerprint test to identify those
using cocaine and heroin, and those exposed to the
drugs due to environmental factors.
Scientists have found that drugs are now so
prevalent that 13 per cent of those taking part in a
test were found to have traces of class A drugs on
their fingerprints - despite never using them.
In a study published by Clinical Chemistry,
researchers from the University tested the
fingerprints of 50 drug free volunteers and 15 drug
users who testified to taking either cocaine or
heroin in the previous 24 hours.
Researchers tested fingerprints from the unwashed
hands of the drug-free volunteers and, despite
having no history of drug use, still found traces of
class A drugs.
Around 13 per cent of fingerprints were found to
contain cocaine and one per cent contained a
metabolite of heroin.
By setting a "cut-off" level, researchers were able
to distinguish between fingerprints that had
environmental contaminants from those produced after
genuine drug use - even after people washed their
To test the possibility of transferring drugs
through a handshake, drug free volunteers were asked
to shake hands with a drug user.
Fingerprints were then collected from the drug free
volunteers after contact.
Although cocaine and heroin can be transferred by
shaking hands with a drug user, the cut-off level
established allowed researchers to distinguish
between drug use and secondary transfer.
Dr Melanie Bailey, Lecturer in Forensic Analysis at
the University of Surrey, said: "Believe it or not,
cocaine is a very common environmental contaminant -
it is well known that it is present on many bank
The study was co-funded by Intelligent
Fingerprinting, developers of the world's first
commercially-available portable drug test that works
by analysing the sweat from a fingerprint sample.
For more information
Rapid, Secure Drug Testing Using Fingerprint
Development and Paper Spray Mass Sspectrometry
University of Surrey