A Reddit post made a major splash on the internet this week when it claimed that the infamous, $30 “GamerGirl bathwater” being sold by social media star Belle Delphine contained no human DNA — and therefore might not be her bathwater at all. This was promptly challenged by other Reddit users and debunked: the shipments of said bathwater hadn’t even been sent out yet. As the news of the non-scandal broke around The Verge offices, reporters began pelting the science desk with questions, including; “wait, you can test bathwater for DNA?” “Yes, you can,” says forensic biologist Helen Page. Page is a senior lecturer at Teesside University in the UK, and has actually studied how to recover very specific samples of DNA from a bath. It’s serious work. Recovering DNA from a shower or bath can be useful during the investigation of a sexual assault, especially if a victim doesn’t want to undergo a full forensic exam, or showered after the assault. Page has studied how semen can be recovered from specially-designed mesh objects made to fit in shower drains, and “bath scrunchies” (also known as sponges, loofahs, or poufs). She found that you can recover DNA from mesh, from scrunchies, and also by simply wiping around the walls, base, and drain of a tub. Page has shown it’s possible to recover DNA from semen in bathwater, but semen is very different from other cells. “The structure of a sperm is quite resistant, as it were, to degradation in the… [Read full story]
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