Databases For Missing Persons And Mass Disaster Reconstruction

DNA databases can also play an important role in helping identify missing individuals and aiding mass disaster reconstruction following a plane crash or terrorist activity (see Chapter 24). In these cases, DNA samples are often obtained from biological relatives that can be searched against remains recovered from a missing individual or a disaster site. Many states within the United States and nations around the world are beginning to establish missing persons databases to enable matching of recovered remains to their family members (Lorente et al. 2002). CODIS/NDIS also has an index for missing person investigations that can store DNA profiles from both recovered remains and family samples that serve as references. Much of the data from missing person investigations is in the form of mitochondrial DNA sequences (see Chapter 10) since this information can be successfully recovered from highly degraded samples. Use of mitochondrial DNA also enables access to a larger number of reference samples from maternal relatives of a victim.


There are a number of important issues for DNA databases. These issues include security of the information contained in them, the ability to perform rapid searches and effective matches from large numbers of entries, maintaining the quality of the inputted data, and handling changes in technology. Both computer and DNA technologies are constantly improving at a rapid rate. DNA databases have to be flexible enough to handle this change. Legacy data must be maintained or the value of the database will be diminished (see Gill et al. 2004).

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