The criminal justice system in South Africa has been widely questioned and left in a state of uncertainty due to an accumulation of backlogs in their forensic science system.
As a result, a number of criminal court cases dependent on forensic evidence may have been dropped.
In mid 2011 the government addressed this problem by implementing Biochip Array Technology, developed by UK manufacturer Randox Toxicology.
The advanced immunoassay technology permits accurate analysis of biological specimens for drugs of abuse at high speeds.
Subsequently the South African justice system now has the capabilities to provide cutting edge forensic analysis of post-mortem cases.
In South Africa, three state reference laboratories serve all nine provinces. Toxicology tests carried out by these laboratories play a critical role in determining the cause of death in suspicious circumstances.
With a national backlog of approximately 20,000 toxicology samples awaiting processing in 2010, state pathologist and Wits forensic pathology lecturer, Dr Gina Rowe recognized that their toxicology testing was running almost 10 years behind.
It was evident that these laboratories required technology that could process a large volume of samples efficiently.
After careful consideration the laboratory management decided that multiplex Biochip Array Technology offered an effective solution, with the ability to screen for multiple drugs simultaneously from an undivided sample.
In order to quickly resolve the national backlog, Randox Toxicology supplied six Biochip systems including the Evidence and Evidence Investigator analyzers. Laboratory staff would simply have to prepare the samples and load them onto the Biochip system.
By quickly eliminating a large number of samples with a high throughput biochip screen, laboratory staff were presented with a smaller number of positive samples which would require further confirmatory analysis.
The Evidence analyzer can process in excess of 1200 tests per hour in a range of sample types including blood, urine, oral fluid and tissue homogenates.
As a result, each of the three laboratories has been able to address the large number of outstanding toxicology cases in the South African criminal justice system.
Biochip Array Technology is a widely acknowledged solution for twenty first century forensic toxicology, with an unrivalled test menu for screening drugs of abuse.