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Development and Validation of Standard Operating Procedures for Measuring Microbial Populations for Estimating a Postmortem Interval

NCJ Number
Date Published
May 2014
82 pages

This project conducted a series of laboratory and field studies intended to develop a standard operating procedure (SOP) for sampling and pyrosequencing bacteria communities on human remains, so as to predict the time elapsed since death.


Documenting and identifying differences in microbial community function is the key in advancing knowledge of the carrion necrobiome and its applicability in forensic science. This project determined that bacterial communities could be used in part to determine the time elapsed since human remains were placed in a field. In addition, researchers determined that insects impacted microbial communities, suggesting the need for further research to determine the key bacteria species associated with the presence or absence of insects at the remains. This would enable researchers to develop simple kits that predict time of death based on the specific bacteria and their population structure over time. Researchers also developed the sterile techniques for working with bacteria associated with insects in the laboratory. They describe the microbial shifts associated with the presence of fly larvae on a resource. In addition, they demonstrated that bacteria associated with decomposing material regulate arthropod attraction and colonization. These data are crucial for explaining decomposition related to the estimation of the time elapsed since death. Implications of these findings are drawn for policy and practice as well as further research. 1 table, 23 figures, 75 references, and appended supplementary information

Date Published: May 1, 2014