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 Table of Contents  
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 8  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 88-96

Sex identification using fingerprint white line counts in a sample of adult Egyptians and Malaysians


1 Department of Forensic Medicine and Clinical Toxicology, Faculty of Medicine, Alexandria University, Egypt, India
2 Department of Forensic Medicine and Clinical Toxicology, Faculty of Medicine, Alexandria University, Egypt; Faculty of Medicine for Community Service and Environmental Development; Department of Forensic Medicine, Armed Faculty of Medicine, Ministry of Defense

Date of Submission25-Oct-2021
Date of Decision08-Jun-2022
Date of Acceptance13-Jun-2022
Date of Web Publication02-Sep-2022

Correspondence Address:
Magda Hassan Mabrouk Soffar
Faculty of Medicine, Champollion Street, Alexandria
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/jfsm.jfsm_76_21

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  Abstract 


Background: Fingerprints are unique, persistent, and left on every object touched by bare hands. It can be used as a rapid and inexpensive method for identification. This study focuses on fingerprint white line counts (FWLCs) and its importance in sex estimation. Aim and Objectives: This study aimed to clarify the potential of FWLC in sex estimation among Egyptian and Malaysian ethnic groups. Materials and Methods: The study was conducted on two hundred adult participants, one hundred Egyptians and one hundred Malaysians (50 females and 50 males). Inked fingerprints of ten fingers were obtained from each participant then FWLC was extracted manually for each fingerprint. Results: The mean of females FWLC was significantly higher than males in all fingers in both populations. FWLC of the left index was the most significant predictor of sex in Egyptians, with an accuracy of 82% for males and 78% for females. FWLC more than seven in this digit was an absolute indication of being a female. The most significant predictors of sex in the Malaysian population were the left index and right ring with an accuracy of 80% for males and 71.4% for females and FWLC above six and seven in these fingers, respectively, was an absolute indication of being a female. The absence of FWLC was more common in males than females in all digits. Conclusions: FWLC is a reliable predictor of sex among adult Egyptian and Malaysian ethnic groups, and females tend to have more FWLC.

Keywords: Fingerprint, identification, sex estimation, white line counts


How to cite this article:
Seif EA, Elsehly WM, Henaidy MF, Mabrouk Soffar MH. Sex identification using fingerprint white line counts in a sample of adult Egyptians and Malaysians. J Forensic Sci Med 2022;8:88-96

How to cite this URL:
Seif EA, Elsehly WM, Henaidy MF, Mabrouk Soffar MH. Sex identification using fingerprint white line counts in a sample of adult Egyptians and Malaysians. J Forensic Sci Med [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Sep 27];8:88-96. Available from: https://www.jfsmonline.com/text.asp?2022/8/3/88/355569




  Introduction Top


Forensic anthropology is a study of humankind that employs a different range of methods to identify unknown individuals. Worldwide, more predictors of human identity are being sought. Dermatoglyphics is one of the methods used in medicolegal identification.[1],[2]

Dermatoglyphic traits refer to epidermal ridges and furrows on the palms, fingers, soles, and toes. The embryogenesis of the ridges depends on certain genes. Furthermore, the intrauterine environment, such as the content of the amniotic fluid throughout the 10th to 16th week of intrauterine life, might influence ridge formation.[3],[4],[5]

The superficial layered epidermis and the deep fibrous dermis are the two basic structures of embryonic skin. The columnar epithelium in the epidermis's basal layer becomes undulated to generate the primary ridges. These folds of the epidermis into the dermis eventually form the surface fingerprint pattern.[3],[4],[5]

Different characteristics of a fingerprint are of significant importance in the forensic field. The main characteristics of the fingerprint involve ridge pattern (essentially loops, whorls, and arches), minutiae, ridge pores, ridge density, ridge shape, and contour.[5]

Fingerprints are unique to each individual, even in identical twins. The ridges, once generated, do not change anymore through the lifetime except in cases of injury.[6] Fingerprints' consistency, uniqueness, low cost, and leaving marks on any object handled with bare hands make these prints ideal evidence in identifying individuals.[7],[8]

Fingerprints can be used as an efficient tool to resolve criminal cases. Besides, they can be used in civil issues like marriage and application for a job. Regarding dead identification, fingerprints could be used to identify corpses without advanced decay when previous print records are available.[9],[10] The fingerprints could be obtained either by a conventional method using ink[11] or using more advanced techniques such as scanners[12] and optical coherence tomography (OCT).[13],[14]

Fingerprint white line count (FWLC) is a unique characteristic of fingerprint. FWLC results from hypoplasia of some fingerprint ridges. The reduced ridges height produce a “worn-off” appearance that are covered with fine secondary creases. These creases create characteristic white lines in fingerprint.[15],[16]

In general, correct sex identification is of great value in forensic medicine as it reduces the possibility of identification by 50%.[1] With reference to fingerprints, different parameters had been investigated for sex prediction, such as ridge density, ridge count,[17] pattern,[18] minutia,[19] and pores.[20]

The application of FWLC as a feature for sex identification has been investigated only in Hausian[16],[21] and Filipinos.[22] It is important to consider that the frequency of FWLC is population-specific.[16],[21],[22] Thus, additional researches are needed to evaluate the utility of FWLC as a sex predictor in different populations. Thus, the current study has an in-depth look at FWLC for Egyptian and Malaysian ethnic groups. The study aimed to assess the extent of sexual dimorphism in FWLC and its utility in sex estimation in samples of adult Egyptians and Malaysians.


  Materials and Methods Top


This cross-sectional study was carried out in the Department of Forensic Medicine and Clinical Toxicology, Faculty of Medicine, Alexandria University, Egypt. This research included two hundred participants aged between 18 and 30 years. They were subdivided into two ethnic groups: One hundred Egyptians (50 females and 50 males) and one hundred Malaysians (50 females and 50 males). The Ethics Committee of Faculty of Medicine, Alexandria University approved the current study in its monthly meeting held on June 18, 2020 (FWA number: 00018699, IRB number: 00012098, approval serial number: 0201360). Informed consent was obtained from all participants.

Any cases with inflammation or injuries on fingers were not included in the study. Subjects with any physical abnormality of fingers due to amputation, burn, fracture, congenital deformity, or deformity due to any surgical procedure were excluded also.

The following materials were used; Fingerprint Inked Strips (New York-USA) which has a fine layer of ink coated between two thin flexible plastic sheets, white paper A4, soap, and a dry towel.

The following was fulfilled for each research participant:

  1. Demographic data: Included age, sex, and nationality.
  2. Fingerprint taking:


Each subject was asked to wash his hands with soap and water to remove any dirt. Then to apply their finger bulbs on the inked strip and then transfer them to the white paper in a rolling manner. Regular pressure was applied, and all ten fingerprints were obtained.[9],[23]

Fingerprint white line counts

The white lines are folds of skin in friction ridges that look as white lines in a fingerprint. White line counts (WLC) were extracted manually for each fingerprint. The number of white lines per unit fingerprints provides the white line count.[16],[21] The fingerprints were scanned immediately (to reduce the likelihood of being changed by any environmental factors) then were magnified three times to enhance the visualization of white lines.[22]

When the white lines crossed more than one epidermal ridge, regardless of their orientation or direction, they were counted [Figure 1]. Sweat glands pores linked with ridges were not included in our counts.[21]
Figure 1: A fingerprint with eight FWLC (a), a fingerprint with five FWLC (b). FWLC: Fingerprint white line count

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Reproducibility of measurements

Fingerprints were obtained and analyzed by two fingerprint experts. The first examiner repeated measurements of randomly selected 30 cases after 2 weeks to test intraobserver reliability. Besides, examination of randomly selected 30 participants was done by the first and the second examiners to test interobserver reliability.

Statistical analysis

Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) version 20 (IBM Corp Armonk, NY) was used to analyze the data. The intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) was implemented to test the intraobserver and interobserver agreements.[24] The normality of data was tested using the Shapiro Wilk test. Mann-Whitney and Kruskal Wallis tests were applied for comparing differences in FWLC. The receiver operator characteristic (ROC) curve analysis was applied to determine the cutoff values with the highest specificity and sensitivity for total FWLC. The accuracy was measured by the area under the ROC curve (AUC).[25] Logistic regression analysis was adopted to generate models for sex prediction. Sex inference of the parameter was investigated using a probability test.[26]


  Results Top


The study included fingerprints of two hundred adult cases aged between 18 and 30 years. The cases were equally distributed into two racial groups: One hundred adult Egyptians (50 males with mean age 22.4 ± 2.8 years and 50 females with a mean age of 22.5 ± 3.1 years) and one hundred Malaysians (50 males with mean age 22.5 ± 1.1 years and 50 females with mean age 22.3 ± 1.0 years).

There was no statistically significant difference regarding age between males and females in Egyptians with (P = 0.595) and Malaysians with (P = 0.278); also, there was no statistically significant difference regarding age between both ethnic groups with (P = 0.668).

[Table 1] reveals intraobserver and interobserver agreements of FWLC of each finger in both hands of 30 participants. There are excellent intraobserver and interobserver agreements, with the ICC exceeding 0.9 in all ten fingers.
Table 1: Intraobserver and interobserver agreements of fingerprint white line counts of the ten fingers using intraclass correlation coefficient

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The FWLC of the ten fingers of both hands of each participant was summed to obtain total FWLC. In Egyptians, the total FWLC ranged from 0 to 73 in males and 8–123 in females. The mean of total FWLC was significantly higher in females (48.5 ± 29.9) than in males (17.3 ± 15.5), where P < 0.001. In Malaysian, the total FWLC ranged from 0 to 64 in males and from 6 to 87 in females. The mean of total FWLC was significantly higher in females (45.9 ± 20.1) than in males (23.6 ± 16.8), where P < 0.001 [Table 2].
Table 2: Comparison of total fingerprint white line counts between both sexes in samples of Egyptians and Malaysians

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ROC curve analysis revealed that the accuracy of total FWLC in predicting sex in Egyptians was 71%. Female sex was predicted at a cut-off point >14.5 (sensitivity 90%, specificity 52%, P = 0.001, AUC = 0.844), as shown in [Table 3] and [Figure 2]. In Malaysians, the accuracy of total FWLC in the prediction of sex was 64%. Female sex was predicted at a cut-off point >14.5 (sensitivity 90%, specificity 48%, P = 0.001, AUC = 0.795), as illustrated in [Table 3] and [Figure 3].
Table 3: Receiver operator characteristic analysis for sex prediction using total fingerprint white line counts in samples of Egyptians and Malaysians

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Figure 2: ROC curve for the performance of total FWLC in the prediction of sex in a sample of Egyptians. FWLC: Fingerprint white line count

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Figure 3: ROC curve for the performance of total FWLC in the prediction of sex in a sample of Malaysians. FWLC: Fingerprint white line count

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[Figure 4] and [Figure 5] illustrate the variation in the median of fingerprint white lines counts (FWLC) of each finger in both hands in males and females within each ethnic group. In the Egyptian population, the median values of females FWLC were significantly higher than males in all fingers (P < 0.001), as shown in [Figure 4]. Furthermore, in the Malaysian population, the mean values of females FWLC were significantly higher than males in all fingers (P < 0.002), as illustrated in [Figure 5].
Figure 4: Box plot showing variation in FWLC of ten fingers between Egyptian males and females. FWLC: Fingerprint white line count

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Figure 5: Box plot showing variation in FWLC of ten fingers between Malaysian males and females. FWLC: Fingerprint white line count

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[Figure 6] compare the median of FWLC of each finger in both hands between Egyptian and Malaysian males. No significance was elucidated between males in the two ethnic groups except FWLC of the right middle (P = 0.005) and left middle (P = 0.025). Furthermore, there was no statistically significant difference in the median of FWLC of each finger in both hands between Egyptian and Malaysian females (P > 0.05), as demonstrated in [Figure 7].
Figure 6: Box plot showing variation in FWLC of ten fingers between Egyptian and Malaysian males. FWLC: Fingerprint white line count

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Figure 7: Box plot showing variation in FWLC of ten fingers between Egyptian and Malaysian females. FWLC: Fingerprint white line count

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Binary logistic regression model revealed that FWLC of the left index was the significant predictor of sex in the Egyptian population, and by increasing FWLC by one, the likelihood of being a female increases by 1.5 times compared to male with an accuracy of 82% for males and 78% for female prediction [Table 4].
Table 4: Binary logistic regression model of fingerprint white line counts for prediction of sex in Egyptian sample

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Regarding the Malaysian population, the FWLC left index and right ring were the significant predictors of sex. Considering the left index, increasing FWLC by one, the likelihood of being female increases by 1.48 times compared to male. Similarly, increase in FWLC of the right ring by one the likelihood of being a female increase by 1.42 times with an accuracy of 80% for males and 71.4% for female prediction using these two fingers [Table 5].
Table 5: Binary logistic regression model of fingerprint white line counts for prediction of sex in Malaysian sample

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The probability of sex inference of each FWLC using the significant predictors in the Egyptian population (left index) and Malaysian population (left index and right ring) was investigated. The absence of FWLC was more common in males than females in all digits of both populations.

In Egyptians, the FWLC in the left index digit of Egyptian males ranged from (0 to 7), whereas females ranged from (0 to 13). Thus, the FWLC more than seven in this digit was an indicator of female as shown in [Table 6].
Table 6: Probability of fingerprint white line counts of left index finger in Egyptian sample

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In Malaysians, the FWLC in the left index of Malaysian males ranged from (0 to 6), and that of females ranged from (0 to 10) so the FWLC >6 in this digit was an indicator of female as shown in [Table 7]. Similarly, the FWLC of the right ring digit of Malaysian males ranged from (0 to 7), whereas females ranged from (0 to 13). Thus, FWLC >7 in the right ring digit was an indication of female origin [Table 8].
Table 7: Probability of fingerprint white line counts of left index finger in Malaysian sample

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Table 8: Probability of fingerprint white line counts of right ring finger in Malaysian sample

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  Discussion Top


Sex determination is one of the most challenging tasks in forensic practice. Fingerprints are frequently used to provide evidence about sex and identity.[27],[28] Dermatoglyphics have been utilized to characterize different populations in forensic science because of their consistency and variance among populations. Fingerprints are very individualistic and are used as reliable evidence in personal identification. In dermatoglyphics, ridge counts, and features were extensively investigated by forensic scientists.[29] However, white lines, which are a characteristic feature of fingerprints not adequately discussed in the literature. To date, scarce data is available regarding the applicability of FWLC as a potential sex predictor in different populations.[16],[21],[22] Therefore, the present study highlighted FWLC in Egyptian and Malaysian populations for the first time.

The current research was conducted on two hundred participants; one hundred Egyptians and one hundred Malaysians (50 females and 50 males) aged 18–30 years. Eighteen years is established as a lower limit to ensure the development of sexual dimorphism because it is the age of sexual dimorphism. Thirty years was selected to avoid the age-related changes on epidermal ridges and fingerprints.[23],[30]

Fingerprint inked strips were used in the current study as they are simple, easy to use, yield clear crispy permanent fingerprints without over-inking due to the thin layer of ink coated on these strips, and are reasonably priced. In addition, they are nontoxic, do not cause allergies, and have no concerns about hygiene or cross-infection.[31] Other than inked fingerprints used in the current study, the scanners could provide high-quality images with mechanical scanning.[12] Literature referred to OCT imaging as a useful modality in fingerprints analysis with low-coherence interferometry, nonmechanical scanning, and compactness. OCT has the advantage of successful differentiation of the artificial materials used to make fake fingerprints.[13],[14]

In the current research, the intraobserver and the interobserver agreements were perfect that reflect the accuracy of obtained measurements. The total FWLC of all fingers for each participant was calculated. It is observed that total FWLC in Egyptians ranged from (0–73) in males and from (8–123) in females; also, in Malaysian, the total FWLC ranged from (0–64) in males and from (6–87) in females. The mean of total FWLC was significantly higher in females in both populations. According to the present results, zero total FWLC is highly suggestive of a male. The present results agree with Taduran et al. 2016 who conducted their study in Filipinos.[22]

ROC analysis is used to allow the practical applicability of the results. It was found that total FWLC could predict sex with 71% accuracy (AUC = 0.844) in Egyptians and 64% accuracy (AUC = 0.795) in Malaysians.

Regarding FWLC of each finger in both hands, the present study showed that females tend to have higher FWLC in all digits than males in Egyptian and Malaysian populations. This coincides with results reported by Taduran et al. in 2016, who conducted their study on Filipinos,[22] and Adamu et al. in 2019, who conducted their study on Hausa ethnic group.[21]

The increase in FWLC in females compared to males could be explained by the fact that females have more ridge density than males. Subsequently, higher ridge density is accompanied by more FWLC. It is also hypothesized that high FWLC in the females could be attributed to the more delicate skin in females with thinner ridges and more hypoplasia that give a “worn-off” appearance of FWLC.[21] On the other hand, in males, the testosterone hormone enhances the growth of the skin leading to more coarse ridges that are less liable to hypoplasia.[16]

In the current work, minimal differences were observed between the two studied ethnic groups regarding the mean of FWLC. There was no statistically significant difference between Egyptian and Malaysian females. Furthermore, there was no statistically significant difference between males of both populations except for the right and left middle digits. Such recorded differences in FWLC of right and left middle digits between the two studied populations could be attributed to genetic and ethnic variations.

The binary logistic regression test was conducted in the current study and proved that FWLC of the left index was the significant predictor of sex in the Egyptian population with accuracies of 82% and 78% in males and females, respectively. FWLC more than seven in the left index was an indication of female origin. Nevertheless, the left index and right ring were the significant predictors of sex in the Malaysian population, with accuracies of 80% and 71.4% in males and females, respectively. FWLC >6 and seven in these fingers, respectively, was an indication of female origin.

Adamu et al. 2019,[21] who conducted their study on FWLC of the Hausa ethnic group using stepwise logistic regression, stated that the most significant predictors of sex are left ring finger FWLC, followed by the left thumb and the left little finger FWLC. They declare that FWLC above seven in the left ring and above five for both left thumb and left little digit indicated a female gender. The variation in the statistically used method between the current study and Adamu et al. 2019 study challenges the comparability of results. It is also crucial to consider that differences in fingerprints parameters, including FWLC, are population-specific that could be influenced by genetic factors.[21] However, the present findings, along with that of others, pointed to FWLC as a useful sex predictor.

The probability test conducted on the present study proved that the absence of FWLC was more common in males than females in each finger in both ethnic groups, and this goes with other population-based studies, in which the FWLC absence indicates a male origin across different populations.[21],[22],[32]

The current method could be applied for sex identification of dead persons as long as the fingerprints are obtainable before decomposition. The FWLC is especially useful in mass casualties that yield disintegrated corpses with a large number of unidentified victims. Furthermore, these white lines could be applied for sex prediction of the persons leaving their fingerprints on crime scene.[21],[22]

The current study provides a total FWLC of ten fingers as a tool for sex identification in Egyptians and Malaysians with accuracies of 71% and 64%, respectively. Regarding the use of significant predictors, left index FWLC could predict sex in Egyptians with accuracies of 82% and 78% in males and females, respectively, whereas FWLC of the left index and right ring in Malaysians could identify sex with accuracies of 80% and 71.4% in males and females, respectively.

Different fingerprint parameters had been previously investigated for sex prediction, such as pattern, minutia, pores, ridge count, and ridge density. Badawi et al. 2006,[18] and Kapoor and Badiye 2015[33] denoted that the fingerprints pattern is not influenced by sex. Furthermore, Fournier and Ross 2016[19] declared no significant difference between both sexes regarding minutia. Similarly, Nagesh et al. 2011[20] stated that fingerprints pore characteristics had no significant difference in relation to sex. On the other hand, Eshak et al. 2013[17] proved that ridge count and ridge density could predict sex with 62.8% and 66.0% accuracies, respectively. From a practical point of view, determining ridge count and ridge density is more difficult and time-consuming than counting the fingerprints white lines.

FWLC provide convenient methods for sex prediction with reasonable accuracies, especially in mass causalities. However, in decomposed bodied the obtaining fingerprints is impossible. In such situations, there is a necessity to apply other identification methods. Furthermore, FWLC was proved to be useful for the sex identification of the individuals leaving their fingerprints in the scene. However, it is important to consider that all fingerprints features, including FWLC are affected by prints quality and surrounding conditions.

Generally, DNA analysis is the most accurate method for sex determination. DNA could be recovered from any available tissues, including bony remains; thus, it could be used even in an advanced state of decay. However, its high cost and sophisticated analysis techniques limit its utility.[34],[35]

On the view of the current study, FWLC could be used as a sex predictor in Egyptian and Malaysian. However, more studies on FWLC are recommended on a larger sample size with multiple different ethnic groups. Furthermore, further studies are needed to assess the accuracy of sex determination of FWLC along with other features of fingerprints as ridge density and ridge count.


  Conclusions Top


The present study pointed to FWLC as a valuable parameter for sex identification in Egyptians and Malaysians. FWLC could be used for sex determination along with other identification methods. In both populations, females exhibited a considerably higher mean value of FWLC than males. The most significant predictor of sex in the Egyptians is the FWLC of the left index. Meanwhile, the left index and right ring are significant predictors of sex in Malaysians.

Ethical considerations

Compliance with ethical guidelines

The Ethics Committee of Faculty of Medicine, Alexandria University approved the current study in its monthly meeting held on 18th June 2020 (FWA number: 00018699, IRB number: 00012098, approval serial number: 0201360), and informed consent was obtained from all participants. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Research Ethics Committee.

Authors' contributions

Prof. Dr. Eman A Seif, and Prof. Dr. Wafaa M Elsehly designed the study and interpreted the data. Dr. Maii F Henaidy assisted in practical part and revised statistical analysis. Dr. Magda H Soffar conducted practical part of research and wrote original draft. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
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    Figures

  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4], [Figure 5], [Figure 6], [Figure 7]
 
 
    Tables

  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4], [Table 5], [Table 6], [Table 7], [Table 8]



 

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Abstract
Introduction
Materials and Me...
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