Immigration Delay Disease: People Without Fingerprints
“Hey, Sarge,” said Officer Trevor “Curly” Barnes. “Would you do me a favor and see if you can get a clear set of prints from this guy? I’ve tried three times and all I get are smudges. I must be out of practice, or something.”
“You rookies are all alike,” said Sgt. DooRight. “Always wanting somebody to do the dirty work for you.”
DooRight dropped a fat ballpoint pen on a mound of open file folders. “But nothing. All you ‘boots’ want to do is bust up fights and harass the whores.” He pushed his lopsided rolling chair away from his desk and placed a bear-paw-size hand on each knee. “Well, paperwork and processing both come with the job.”
“I’m serious, Sarge. I can’t get a good print. I think the guy’s messing with me, or something.”
DooRight sighed and rolled his eyes, his trademark “I don’t want to but will” expression. “All right. Go finish up the paperwork and I’ll take care of the prints and mugshots.” The sergeant pointed a meaty finger at the young officer. “But hurry up and get your ass back down to booking. I get off in thirty minutes and I’ve got plans.”
“That’s right, it’s Thursday night, huh?”
“Yep, Bingo night. And me and the little woman never miss. So, if you ever hope to see a day shift assignment you’d better be back here in ten minutes to take this slimeball off my hands.”
Twenty minutes later, Sergeant DooRight was on the phone to Captain Miller, the shift commander. “That’s right, Captain. The guy doesn’t have any prints. Not a single ridge, whorl … nothing.”
A pause while DooRight listens. Officer Barnes leaned toward his boss, trying to hear the conversation. DooRight waved him away. “No, sir. Not even a freckle,” he said to the captain.
“Nope, not on any finger.” DooRight leaned back in his chair. “All as smooth as a baby’s bottom. Beats everything I’ve ever seen.”
“Yes, sir. I checked his toes, too. Nothing there either. Slick as a freshly waxed floor.”
Sergeant DooRight opened a pouch of Redman chew and dug out a golfball-size hunk of shredded black tobacco leaves.
“Nope. Best I can tell he’s not from around here. Says he’s from Sweden and he claims his whole family’s like that. According to him not a one of them has any prints, and I can’t imagine the FBI will accept a card with nothing but black ink smudges. He said his family has a condition called adermatoglyphia. You ever heard of it”
A beat of silence.
“Me either, Captain.”
DooRight shoved the “chew” inside of his mouth, maneuvering it with his tongue until it came to rest between his teeth and cheek. He looked like a hamster after it had filled its mouth full of sunflower seeds.
The sergeant placed a hand over the receiver and turned to Officer Barnes. “I’d better call the little woman to let her know we won’t be playing Bingo tonight, and she ain’t going to be happy. No, sir.”
Credit: Nousbeck et al., The American Journal of Human Genetics (2011)
Adermatoglyphia, or “immigration delay disease” as it’s also known, is an extremely rare and unique condition originally found in members of only four Swiss families. What’s so unique about the condition? Well, for starters, people with adermatoglyphia produce far less hand sweat than the average person. But, perhaps the most startling characteristic is that people with adermatoglyphia do not have fingerprints.
In one instance, a female member of one of the affected families traveled to the U.S. but was delayed by border agents because they couldn’t confirm her identity. Why? No prints to compare.
Until recently, the cause of adermatoglyphia has been a mystery. Now, however, scientists have learned that the affected members of the Swiss families all had a mutation in the gene called Smarcad1. And this mutation is in a version of the gene that is only expressed in skin.
So, all you mystery writers out there…yes, there are people who do not have fingerprints.