Research article| Volume 1, ISSUE 1, P658-659, August 2008

The new genetic database of Argentina

  • G.A. Penacino
    Tel.: +54 11 4862 1142; fax: +54 11 4862 1142.
    Latin-American Society for Forensic Genetics and DNA Analysis Unit, Official College of Pharmacists and Biochemists, Rocamora 4045, C1184ABA Buenos Aires, Argentina
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      A new criminal database, proposed by our Latin-American Society For Forensic Genetics, is ready at the maximum level of the Argentinean National Government, in order to promulgate a law that represents a positive contribution to the pressing subject of the security, fighting against the crime, and that at the same time contemplates and care the human rights of guilty persons and their victims.
      We have been presenting several proposals since 2003, in some cases with small successes. Ephemeral, by the way, like the resolution of the Ministry of Justice 415/2004, that created the Registry, but never it was carried out.
      From there, a dozen of projects have been presented by other organizations, but no one has prospered, although all the papers say almost the same.
      In fact, we did not invent anything either: we based our proposals on the successful European and American experiences.
      This work describes the antecedents and characteristics of the criminal database, which is similar to the American CODIS, but with some differences because of the local law and procedures of the Justice.


      1. Introduction

      The latest proposal of our Latin-American Society for Forensic Genetics (, is now been studied at the highest level of the Argentinean Government, in order to promulgate a law that will positively contribute to contain criminals, guaranteeing at the same time, the human rights for both, lawbreakers and their victims as well.

      1.1 Case history

      Our Latin-American Society for Forensic Genetics has submitted a number of proposals in this sense, since several years ago to present time, having obtained, in some cases, slight victories, such as the Resolution number 415/2004 from the local Ministry of Justice, that created the database, although never implementing it.
      Since then a dozen of new projects were submitted – adding those from both, province and national levels – none prospered, even though they contained almost the same wording. As a matter of fact, we have not invented anything really: our proposal from 2003 is based on successful European and American experiences [

      G. Penacino. DNA databases in Criminal Investigation, Judicial Doctrine XX, 32, pp. 1151–1160; La Ley, Buenos Aires, 2004.

      • Penacino G.
      Organizing the Argentinean Combined DNA Index System. Progress in Forensic Genetics 11.
      At this moment all presentations were amalgamated, having the involvement and input of Human Rights groups.

      2. Organization and standards proposed

      Throughout its deliberation concerning these quality standards, the American DNA Advisory Board recognized the need for a mechanism to ensure compliance with the standards. An underlying premise for these discussions was that accreditation would be required to demonstrate compliance with the standards and therefore assure quality control and a quality program.
      Quality controls in Latin America are conducted by the Latin-American Society for Forensic Genetics ( and the Spanish and Portuguese Speaking Group of the ISFG (
      The standards describe the quality assurance requirements that a laboratory, which is defined as a facility in which forensic DNA testing is performed, should follow to ensure the quality and integrity of the data and competency of the laboratory. These standards do not preclude the participation of a laboratory, by itself or in collaboration with others, in research and development, on procedures that have not yet been validated.
      Forensic DNA identification analysis currently involves forensic casework and convicted offender analyses. These complementary functions demand adherence to the highest analytical standards possible to protect both public safety and individual rights.

      2.1 How and where the database would operate

      It is proposed to run it from inside the Ministry of Justice, in the National Registry of Recidivism.
      Two independent DNA databases would be created: one containing the genetic data of those sentenced for major offences, with confirmed convictions (BASE 1); the second one, with the genetic information from evidences from unresolved cases (BASE 2).
      When a new crime is committed, the judge will be able to order a comparison between the evidence collected in the crime-scene and databases.
      Those that have only been accused of a crime will not be included in BASE 1, until they have been condemned.
      In order to attain an indispensable level of transparency, the proposed databases are to be administered and updated by computer specialists, whom will not be associated nor related to the laboratories that process the DNA tests.

      2.2 Incorporating the genetic data into each base

      2.2.1 BASE 1—sentenced individuals

      It is foreseen that the genetic identity of those convicted of major crimes is to be analyzed and recorded by the date this law is promulgated, and also of those who become convicted offenders.
      DNA tests are to be processed by official laboratories or from the private sector, headed by professionals, licensed by the Ministry of Health of Argentina or equivalent Province level organisations.
      Still, in order to insure the utmost level of confidentiality, BASE 1 will be dissociated: in one place the genetic identity will be stored, followed by a code; separately, the names of the individuals corresponding to that particular code.
      Considering that the Argentinean National Justice (through the Forensic Medical Body) operates via an accreditation system of laboratories for DNA tests, and that group processes the tests ordered in the Judicial System, we propose to empower the Forensic Medical Body to certify every laboratory in the country that meets the standards specified in this law, and wishes to be approved.
      The Forensic Medical Body will have to verify that all requirements imposed by the international forensic community on DNA studies are fulfilled, as follows:
      • (A)
        Must have automatic sequencers for variable markers analyses, internationally approved.
      • (B)
        Must have separated areas for the extraction of DNA, PCR amplification and automatic sequencing.
      • (C)
        Must approve two international quality controls annually, providing the awarded certificates.
      • (D)
        Must be headed by professionals properly certified by the Argentinean Ministry of Health or equivalent provincial level organisations, complying with laws and regulations for basic blood analyses.

      2.2.2 BASE 2 (evidences)

      The genetic pattern obtained from each evidence collected from any unsolved criminal case, will be added to the database, when ordered by a national or provincial judge.
      To accomplish this task, the laboratory processing the DNA test will have to forward the genetic pattern to the National Registry of Recidivism, only at the time the Judge demands it.

      2.3 Technical specifications

      Each genetic pattern will have a structure such as follows:
      • 16/16/8/9.3/32.2/32.2/15/16/11/12/9/12/10/12/10/13/10/11/15/17/13/15/8/9/21/24
        It will be composed of a sequence of 26 numbers, corresponding to the following markers:
      • D3S1358/HUMTHO1/D21S11/D18S51/D5S818/D13S317/D7S820/D16S539/CSF1PO/HUMVWA/D8S1179/TPOX/FGA
      The before-mentioned markers are those that have been chosen by the international genetic community as tested and reliable. These are analyzed using reactives from various providers.
      Their usefulness in forensic genetics is based in the fact that they are found in the “junk DNA” or “non-codifying” area of the genome, used for human identification exclusively, not even for detection of present or future diseases—almost, at this time. This characteristic will prevent from inadequately using the information obtained, for example, for insurance companies or private enterprises in pre-occupational tests.

      3. Conclusion

      The new database will develop into a constructive contribution to control the growing problem of personal security and the fight against crime. Also, at the same time, it contemplates and cares about the human rights of law offenders and their victims.

      Conflict of Interest



      1. G. Penacino. DNA databases in Criminal Investigation, Judicial Doctrine XX, 32, pp. 1151–1160; La Ley, Buenos Aires, 2004.

        • Penacino G.
        Organizing the Argentinean Combined DNA Index System. Progress in Forensic Genetics 11.
        Elsevier Science, London2006