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Inferring the Number of Contributors to Complex DNA Mixtures Using Three Methods: Exploring the Limits of Low-Template DNA Interpretation

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2017
9 pages
This article examines the interpretation of evidentiary profiles, and the assumption of the number of individuals from whom the evidence may arise, in forensic DNA casework.
In forensic DNA casework, the interpretation of an evidentiary profile may be dependent upon the assumption of the number of individuals from whom the evidence arose. Three methods of inferring the number of contributors NOCIt, maximum likelihood estimator, and maximum allele count, were evaluated using 100 test samples consisting of one to five contributors and 0.5-0.016ng template DNA amplified with available resources. Results indicate that NOCIt was the most accurate method of the three, requiring 0.07ng template DNA from any one contributor to consistently estimate the true number of contributors. Additionally, NOCIt returned repeatable results for 91% of samples analyzed in quintuplicate, while 50 single-source standards proved sufficient to calibrate the software. The data indicate that computational methods that employ a quantitative, probabilistic approach provide improved accuracy and additional pertinent information such as the uncertainty associated with the inferred number of contributors. (Published abstract modified)
Date Published: January 1, 2017