New DNA test kit can now sniff out rapist via genes

Var­sity’s kit tar­gets Y chro­mo­some only found in men

Sowetan - - News - By Tanya Far­ber

An in­no­va­tive DNA test­ing kit that could help bust rapists was un­veiled by the Univer­sity of the West­ern Cape (UWC) yesterday. The kit tar­gets DNA that is car­ried only by men – the Y chro­mo­some – and is one of the first of its kind to fac­tor in Africa’s ge­netic diver­sity. The univer­sity’s DNA foren­sic lab­o­ra­tory launched the new pro­file sys­tem with its com­mer­cial partner‚ In­qaba Biotec. Re­searchers say it was de­signed with sex­ual as­sault cases in mind. Lab­o­ra­tory head Pro­fes­sor Maria D’Amato said: “The kit de­tects frag­ments in the Y chro­mo­some‚ which is spe­cific to males. They are very ac­cu­rate for in­di­vid­ual iden­ti­fi­ca­tion.” Mis­cha Fraser‚ the pro­ject man­ager from In­qaba Biotec‚ said the kit was al­ready in SA and be­ing used. D’Amato and her team cap­tured DNA sam­ples from anony­mous male South African donors to cre­ate a data­base that rep­re­sents the ge­netic diver­sity in the re­gion. “Many com­mer­cial geno­typ­ing kits do not cap­ture the ge­netic diver­sity ex­ist­ing in Africa‚ which means that in­di­vid­u­als are dif­fi­cult to iden­tify and then in­crim­i­nate as per­pe­tra­tors or elim­i­nate as in­no­cents‚” said D’Amato. UWC has hosted an in­ter­na­tional work­shop on the ap­pli­ca­tion of the kit. It was at­tended by po­lice representatives from SA‚ Le­sotho and Ghana‚ as well as lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional aca­demics and pri­vate SA lab­o­ra­tory representatives. D’Amato said the kit could help in crim­i­nal foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tions and play an im­por­tant role in ge­neal­ogy‚ fam­ily and an­thro­pol­ogy stud­ies. If the kit is used widely‚ it could go a long way to­wards al­le­vi­at­ing the low rate of rape

Many com­mer­cial geno­typ­ing kits do not cap­ture the ge­netic diver­sity ex­ist­ing in Africa Pro­fes­sor Maria D’Amato UNIVER­SITY OF WEST­ERN CAPE

con­vic­tions in SA‚ de­spite hav­ing one of the world’s high­est rape rates. Ac­cord­ing to re­search by the Med­i­cal Re­search Coun­cil (MRC) last year‚ SA’s con­vic­tion rate for rape is only 8.6%. Of the 3‚952 cases in­cluded in the study‚ an ar­rest was made in 2‚283 (57%). Tri­als started in 731 cases‚ with 340 re­sult­ing in a guilty ver­dict. In 247 of the cases a per­pe­tra­tor was jailed.

/ 123RF.COM

The Y chro­mo­some is the tar­get of a new DNA test aimed at iden­ti­fy­ing rapists.

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