School of Life Sciences

Master’s degree student, Ms Mishka Dass researches salavia and vaginal fluids to advance forensic investigation methods.

Geneticist Advancing Forensic Science Through Fluids Analysis

Dedicated master’s degree student in Genetics Ms Mishka Dass is among 60 postgraduates set to represent the School of Life Sciences at the upcoming 2023 Postgraduate Research and Innovation Symposium (PRIS), hosted by UKZN’s College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES) at Coastlands Hotel in Durban on 2 and 3 November.

Dass’s research, a testament to her dedication and intellect, focuses on the crucial role of saliva and vaginal fluids in forensic investigations. These body fluids stand at the crossroads of science and justice, frequently encountered at crime scenes and serving as pivotal evidence in court proceedings for crime reconstruction, linking individuals to criminal activities, and ensuring the exoneration of those wrongfully accused.

However, the complexities of analysing mixed fluids and the challenges of environmental exposure have led Dass to embark on a journey towards more accurate forensic methodologies.

Her study has provided several key findings, including the development of a multiplex PCR assay and microbiome profiling.

Dass aims to develop a conventional multiplex PCR assay for the identification of saliva and vaginal fluid and this work will rely on species-specific 16S rRNA microbial markers, including Fusobacterium nucleatumStreptococcus salivariusLactobacillus crispatus, and Gardnerella vaginalis.

Her research delves into the human microbiome, a versatile community of microflora that can be influenced by various factors, including host diseases. It is composed of a core microbiome present in most individuals at different body sites. These unique properties make microbiome profiling a promising avenue for differentiating and identifying body fluids retrieved from crime scenes.

Dass’s research has the potential to significantly advance the accuracy and reliability of body fluid identification in forensic investigations.

Words: Siphesihle Shezi

Photographs: Supplied