Empirical Analysis of the STR Profiles Resulting from Conceptual Mixtures

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Samples containing DNA from two or more individuals can be difficult to interpret. Even ascertaining the number of contributors can be challenging and associated uncertainties can have dramatic effects on the interpretation of testing results. Using an FBI genotypes dataset, containing complete genotype information from the 13 Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) loci for 959 individuals, all possible mixtures of three individuals were exhaustively and empirically computed. Allele sharing between pairs of individuals in the original dataset, a randomized dataset and datasets of generated cousins and siblings was evaluated as were the number of loci that were necessary to reliably deduce the number of contributors present in simulated mixtures of four or less contributors. The relatively small number of alleles detectable at most CODIS loci and the fact that some alleles are likely to be shared between individuals within a population can make the maximum number of different alleles observed at any tested loci an unreliable indicator of the maximum number of contributors to a mixed DNA sample. This analysis does not use other data available from the electropherograms (such as peak height or peak area) to estimate the number of contributors to each mixture. As a result, the study represents a worst case analysis of mixture characterization. Within this dataset, approximately 3% of three-person mixtures would be mischaracterized as two-person mixtures and more than 70% of four-person mixtures would be mischaracterized as two- or three-person mixtures using only the maximum number of alleles observed at any tested locus.



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