Volume 43, Issue 2 (March 1998)
Origin and Gender Determination of Dried Blood on a Statue of the Virgin Mary
In Italy, blood exudation from objects of worship recurs frequently in ancient chronicles and literature, in popular beliefs, and even in modern mass-media reports. This phenomenon, that was associated with epochal or catastrophic events, has roots that reach classical antiquity. In the last few years, several events connected with the detection of bloody “tears” on statues of the Virgin Mary required forensic medicine investigations. In the present report we describe genetic investigations conducted on dried blood of unknown derivation found on a statuette representing the Virgin Mary. To test the human or animal origin of the blood, we amplified Alu-specific sequences from DNAs obtained from the unknown sample and from humans, large apes, various Old and New World monkeys, a prosimian, mouse, common domestic artiodactyls and chicken. This investigation restricted the range of possible origin of the statue blood to humans, apes and Old World monkeys. To test the male or female origin of the blood, we used a multiplex nested polymerase chain reaction method, that allows the simultaneous amplification of the X-specific locus DXZ4 and of the Y-specific locus SRY. Considering the unlikelihood of an origin from simian Old World primates, the exclusive amplification of the X-specific product from the unknown sample and from human female blood controls, compared to the amplification of distinct X- and Y-specific bands from human male blood controls, strongly supports a human female origin of the statue blood.