Human 'eDNA' detectable throughout environment, study finds

Human 'eDNA' detectable throughout environment, study finds

Personal, ancestral, health-related data freely available, 'simply floating around in the air right now,' says genomics professor David Duffy

By Mucahit Oktay

NEW YORK (AA) — Scientists from the University of Florida have shown that human DNA can endure in detectable amounts nearly everywhere in the world, footprints left on the beach to the air we breathe and water in the ocean.

A study published on Monday in Nature Ecology and Evolution said that while scientists were collecting environmental DNA samples in sand to study endangered sea turtles, they found the findings were of very high quality and the genetic ancestry of the population living nearby could be determined.

As part of the research, the researchers took air samples from an animal clinic where with six staff members worked in an area of 280 square meters (about 3,014 sq feet). Observing the DNA of the staff and animals, they found that their samples could be used to detect and match with their respective subjects.

The study said that this environmental DNA, or eDNA, could be used for beneficial purposes, such as to help find missing persons, solve crime through forensic investigations, or monitor population-based disease risk susceptibility.

However, their use can also pose an "ethical minefield," concerning issues related to ownership, data protection, insurance coverage and privacy.

"All this very personal, ancestral and health related data is freely available in the environment and is simply floating around in the air right now," David Duffy, a professor of wildlife disease genomics at the University of Florida, told a news conference.

* Writing by Seda Sevencan

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