VOCs from breath and fluids distinguish individuals

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  • Published: Aug 29, 2012
  • Author: Steve Down
  • Channels: Base Peak

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The profiles of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from human hands, breath and various biological fluids can differentiate between individuals, which is of interest to forensic and clinical communities. In a study that was reported in the Journal of Forensic Sciences, Kenneth Furton, Maiko Kusano and Eladio Mendez from the International Forensic Research Institute at Florida International University used GC/MS to characterise the VOCs that were collected by solid-phase microextraction and compared them using principal components analysis and Spearman rank correlation.

The scents from hands, breath, blood, urine and a mouth swab could all be distinguished, so that individual people could be identified with a high degree of confidence, even after 6 months. However, different types of sample from the same individual did not match, presumably due to the different nature of the glandular secretions and their interactions with resident bacteria.

This information could be useful in criminal investigations to link a person to the scent recovered from a crime scene, or for matching evidence in the search for missing persons. In the clinical field, it should be useful in metabolic profiling and disease diagnostics. The research team are now comparing the scent profiles of healthy people to those of patients with known disorders, to try and identify disease biomarkers in the different types of sample.


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