SAMPLE TRACKING AND MANAGEMENT
Information technology can be one of the most overlooked aspects of a DNA-based
identification effort following a mass disaster. Advance planning for using
information technology in sample tracking and management saves time, speeds
identification, and improves testing reliability.
Without sophisticated software, the nearly 1,600 identifications made and
nearly 20,000 human remains profiled in the World Trade Center identification
effort would not have been possible. A laboratory responding to a mass fatality
event must be prepared to track the physical location of each sample and the
data associated with it through the entire identification process. The KADAP
report considers sample accessioning, naming and numbering schemes, and advises
how to handle the possibility that remains are commingled. The report also
discusses matching and statistics software, and ways to organize, store, and
retrieve data; integrate different software systems; allow technical and administrative
review of data; annotate problems and resolutions, report metrics; and track
samples among partner laboratories.
Finally, the report explores the difficulties that can arise when working
with reference samples, such as toothbrushes, razors, and medical biopsy specimens.
A laboratory must keep in mind that bereft loved ones can inadvertently misidentify
reference samples and misspell names or nicknames. Family members may also
be mistaken in their belief that a missing relative was the only person to
use a toothbrush: mixed DNA profiles will eliminate an item as a single-source
reference. Other complications include assumed, but incorrect, parentage.
The KADAP report discusses chain-of-custody documentation and how essential
the managing and tracking of sample collection is to the identification process.