Inadvertent human genomic bycatch and intentional capture raise beneficial applications and ethical concerns with environmental DNA
The feld of environmental DNA (eDNA) is advancing rapidly, yet human eDNA applications remain underutilized and underconsidered. Broader adoption of eDNA analysis will produce many well-recognized benefts for pathogen surveillance, biodiversity monitoring, endangered and invasive species detection, and population genetics. Here we show that deep-sequencing-based eDNA approaches capture genomic information from humans (Homo sapiens) just as readily as that from the intended target species. We term this phenomenon human genetic bycatch (HGB). Additionally, high-quality human eDNA could be intentionally recovered from environmental substrates (water, sand and air), holding promise for benefcial medical, forensic and environmental applications. However, this also raises ethical dilemmas, from consent, privacy and surveillance to data ownership, requiring further consideration and potentially novel regulation. We present evidence that human eDNA is readily detectable from ‘wildlife’ environmental samples as human genetic bycatch, demonstrate that identifable human DNA can be intentionally recovered from human-focused environmental sampling and discuss the translational and ethical implications of such fndings.
Strengthening International Research Capacity in Wales
European CommissionFind out more...
Publicationnature ecology & evolution 7, pp. 873–888
Other Funding informationNational Save the Sea Turtle Foundation under project name Fibropapillomatosis Training and Research Initiative (D.J.D.), a Welsh Government Sêr Cymru II and the European Union Horizon 2020 research Gumbo Limbo Nature Center
Department or School
- Biological Sciences