A new fingerprint drug screening approach has been trialled at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport in Italy to help airport and border control teams act on intelligence received on potential drug mule suspects.

The rapid and hygienic method of screening for suspected drug mules is a new approach in detecting high value opiates and cocaine typically carried by body packers. Body packing is the process where people swallow or insert drug-filled packets inside the body to evade detection.

“Body packing is a real concern for airport and border control staff – not just because it is a widespread way of smuggling drugs, but also because of the potentially fatal risk of acute drug toxicity it poses to mules, should a drug packet split or seep internally,” commented Intelligent Fingerprinting’s Dr Paul Yates.

The new fingerprint screening solution enables customs officials to act on intelligence received on possible offenders within 10 minutes. This contrasts with traditional body fluid tests such as urine, which typically require specially prepared testing facilities are costlier to administer and can take longer to screen potential drug smugglers.

By collecting and analysing tiny traces of sweat from a suspected body packer’s fingerprint, the Intelligent Fingerprinting can screen for the presence of drugs or drug metabolites that have been released into a person’s system as a result of swallowing or inserting sealed drug packages in the body. The non-invasive solution which is quick and easy for everyone involved is designed to test for four drug groups simultaneously – opiates, cocaine, amphetamines and cannabis.

“In trials conducted at Fiumicino Airport in Italy we have seen how our fingerprint-based drug test can be used to aid intelligence-led investigations when travellers are suspected of trafficking drugs concealed within body cavities,” added Dr Yates. “In one particularly significant case, a positive fingerprint drug test result led to an abdominal x-ray which revealed over 100 drug-filled packets hidden within the suspect’s large intestine.”

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