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ARM Innovation Hub
12 October, 2017 - 14:25 By Kate Sweeney

Fingerprint drug test adopted by leading coroner service

Intelligent Fingerprinting coroner

A fingerprint drug test from a Cambridge company is to be used by a major UK coroner’s service to fast-track results of post-mortems.

HM Senior Coroner for Staffordshire (South) has ordered the technology from Intelligent Fingerprinting following a successful trial. It will be used by the coroner’s team to carry out a simple, non-invasive drug test on the deceased immediately on arrival at the mortuary. The test results will help to prioritise costly and time-consuming post mortem investigations.

The technology detects recent drug use by analysing the sweat collected from the tip of a finger. Sweat deposits are still present even after death.

Sample collection takes five seconds and the system delivers simultaneous screening results for the four main drugs of abuse – cocaine, opiates, cannabis and amphetamines – in under 10 minutes. 

The rapid and non-invasive approach provides coroner services with a convenient means of gathering critical early intelligence on possible drug use by the deceased – particularly in comparison with conventional toxicology tests that are usually conducted as part of the post-mortem examination.

These typically require the collection of invasive body fluid samples – blood, saliva or urine - that then have to be sent away for analysis by external testing laboratories.

Andrew Haigh, HM senior coroner for Staffordshire (South), said: “Fingertip drug screening may prove to be a valuable addition to the range of tests we use for investigating deaths, particularly as we can now carry out the initial drug test within the mortuary.

“Now that the test is commercially available, we were keen to place an order. Importantly, the Intelligent Fingerprinting system may well help us to prioritise when a full post-mortem is needed.”

The Staffordshire (South) Coroner’s Office has been an active participant in trials of Intelligent Fingerprinting’s drug screening system over the last 18 months, with trial results showing that fingertip-based testing can deliver effective screening, prioritising the requirement for further post-mortem enquiries and full toxicology analyses.

“Testing clearly showed that fingertip-based screening provides useful and reliable intelligence on drug use prior to death, with the results being highly consistent with existing techniques – body-fluid based tests and laboratory toxicology analyses,” said Haigh. 

“Now that the system has been fully validated and tested for commercial use, we are delighted to add Intelligent Fingerprinting to our portfolio of tests.”

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