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Genetic Experts of Hopkins Assists In Identifying Hurricane Katrina Victims

Genetic experts of Johns Hopkins joined the aid efforts by identifying more than 70 bodies that were recovered after the Hurricane Katrina. // The devastating natural disaster, which hit Louisiana and Mississippi on August 29, took more than 1,200 lives. Even though most of victims were identified by their families and buried, the remaining was identified using DNA analysis.

Using experience gained in DNA analysis of human remains after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Hopkins epidemiologists and genetic counselors are helping Louisiana state officials with the complex task of collecting data on family history, a key step in the complex system of DNA testing that state officials must use to match the dead to some of the families of more than 2,000 people still listed as missing from the disaster.

According to the Hopkins experts, the DNA identification process following Katrina is a more complex job than initially thought.

That is because many of Katrina's missing victims lost their identifying personal effects in the disaster as well. Items such as toothbrushes and hairbrushes, which could contain hair and saliva samples useful in DNA testing, were often contaminated or destroyed by the flooding. Many medical and dental records normally used to match dead bodies with names of the missing were destroyed, leaving few clues behind as to whose remains were found. All of these make identification difficult - without the aid of DNA testing. Making matters worse, family members whose DNA is required to make a match were also displaced by the hurricane, making contact difficult and adding delays to scheduling interviews and appointments for genetic testing.

"In today's world of blended families and multiple marriages, not all siblings are biologically related to one another. And trained interview techniques are needed to separate the correct blood relationships involving DNA from the correct social relationships that
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