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Surveying the Total Microbiome as Trace Evidence for Forensic Identification

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2016, $637,735)

As submitted by the proposer:
Trace evidence is a large array of clue materials that may be transferred between person and person or between person and object during a crime. Trace evidences provide valuable information on the association of a suspect with the victim or a crime scene but rarely reveal the identity of a suspect or a victim. Recently, the human microbiome (genes of microorganisms in and on our bodies) has garnered much attention due to its potential for forensic applications, especially in the post-mortem analysis.

Since the microbiome is variable within and between persons, it may be employed as trace evidence for forensic identification. In this proposed research, we will examine different human touched trace evidences and disclose which trace evidences are more feasible for the microbiome-based forensic applications, which microbiome is more applicable for forensic identification, how environmental (spatial) factors affect the composition of the microbiome in humans and thus in touched objects, and how the composition of the microbiome changes over time after being transferred to an object. This study will explore the total microbiome, including human skin bacteriome, archaeome, fungiome, and virome for forensic identification, which may help link human touched objects to the identity of individuals (i.e. victim and suspect). The outcome of this study will be able to provide fundamental information on the application of the microbiome for forensic investigations by identifying target trace evidence that may retain the human microbiome and by linking the microbiome retrieved from human touched objects to individuals. This novel approach to assess the total human microbiome as trace evidence will provide a practical insight into a crime scene investigation as well as a new tool for forensic identification.

Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law.


Date Created: September 19, 2016