Waikel, Rebekah L. Department of Biological Sciences, Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, Kentucky.
Lynch, Rebecca M. Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Suwanee, Georgia.
- Human microbiome
- Microbial fingerprints
- Postmortem analysis
- Links to Primary Literature
- Additional Readings
The anthrax biological attacks that occurred in the United States in the weeks following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, thrust the field of microbial forensics into hyperdrive. Investigators used DNA analyses of the anthrax spores to determine the laboratory strain and thus were able to narrow down the suspects responsible for the biological attacks. Since that time, the field of microbial forensics has expanded to include the study of bioterrorism, foodborne illness, personal identification, postmortem death interval (an estimation of the time of death), and toxicology. This article will focus on exciting, recent advances in the use of microbes for personal identification and postmortem analysis. Although these practices are not yet standard in forensic investigations, the science is promising and lends itself to being standardized in much the same way that DNA fingerprinting was standardized for use in criminal cases.
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