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A new fingerprint test can detect cocaine in a person's system in seconds, according to a new study.
Fingerprint testing would likely eliminate the risk of labs mixing up different test results.
This new method of testing could be modified to test for other controlled substances, like heroin, methadone and prescription opioids.
Fingerprint drug screening could become the new standard for courts, prisons and employers in as little as five years, researchers from University of Surrey say.
The study, published in Clinical Chemistry, found that cocaine could be detected by developing the print using a chemical that does not affect the drug signals, or molecular traces, in the fingerprint.
'When you sweat, you’re actually excreting cocaine and its metabolites through your fingerprints,' explained one of the lead researchers, Dr Melanie Bailey.
The University of Surrey researchers tested 16 known cocaine users at a drug rehabilitation facility using the new fingerprint method. They also took saliva samples from the same patients, to compare the two types of tests.
The subjects were instructed to wash their hands by different methods, to make sure that signs of cocaine couldn't simply be washed off, before their fingerprints were taken.
Once the prints develop, the piece of paper they are printed on is cut into a triangle, treated with a solvent, and clipped down to prepare them for scanning.
The samples are placed in front of an extremely sensitive device called a mass spectrometer. The chemical make up of the finger print 'sweats up' into the spectrometer which measures the mass of the molecules found in the print.
Cocaine and other drug compounds have a unique molecular mass, so if the the machine detects that mass, then cocaine is present.
Mass spectrometers are already the gold-standard of drug testing, but scientists did not previously know how to collect a sample from a fingerprint without disrupting the drug's signals, and not all mass
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