Location: Food and Feed Safety ResearchTitle: Forensic microbiology: Evolving from discriminating distinct microbes to characterizing entire microbial communities on decomposing remains
Submitted to: Microbiologist
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/6/2015
Publication Date: 9/1/2015
Citation: Crippen, T.L. 2015. Forensic microbiology: Evolving from discriminating distinct microbes to characterizing entire microbial communities on decomposing remains. Microbiologist. 16:10-12.
Technical Abstract: The body of an animal encompasses a multitude of compositionally and functionally unique microbial environments, from the skin to the gastrointestinal system. Each of these systems harbor microbial communities that have adapted in order to cohabitate with their specific host resulting in a distinctive genetic signature that may be useful in identifying its source. These adaptations occur at an accelerated rate in microbes in comparison to macroorganisms, such as vertebrates, due to short reproductive cycles, high mutation rates, and the ease of gene exchange between microbes. The resulting community of microbes on, and in, animals is large and heterogeneous related to such factors as anatomical location, gender, and environment, but there also appears to be a core set of bacterial phylotypes common to all individuals and transient rare taxa related to environmental influences. We can now explore the possibility of identifying an individual’s or animal’s distinct microbial community before (microbiome) and after death (postmortem microbial communities), or where that person or animal has been, based on their unique microbial geo-signature.