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The Forensic Microbiome: The Invisible Traces We Leave Behind

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2021
7 pages

This web article examines the introduction of microbial forensics, and the NIJ-funded microbial forensic research of Bruce Budowle.


One significant advance in modern forensic science came in 2001, with the anthrax attacks in Florida, New York, and Washington, D.C. Letters containing deadly bacterial spores that caused anthrax were sent to several news media offices and two U.S. senators. Five people died and 17 were infected, triggering one of the largest FBI investigations in history. That investigation marked the birth of microbial forensics, according to Bruce Budowle, a geneticist with the University of North Texas Health Science Center who was with the FBI at the time. This article discusses the NIJ-funded microbial forensic research of Budowle as well as that of Rob Knight, director of the Center for Microbiome Innovation at the University of California, San Diego. The latter used some of the lessons learned in microbial forensics to find the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 disease among UCSD students.

Date Published: June 1, 2021