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Linking Internal Organ Microbiome and Metabolome Compositions To Cause Death in Medicolegal Investigations

NCJ Number
Date Published
28 pages

This document reports on a research study that had the goal of investigating human microbiome compositions in different organs in a human cadaver, and if they can be used to determine the manner of death, postmortem interval, and geographic locality of origin.


The author of this report describes a research study that aimed to investigate the degree to which microbial associations among different organs in a human cadaver can be used to predict manner of death (MOD), postmortem interval, and geographic locality of origin; this will allow investigators to establish a potential timeline of death. To accomplish this, the author’s research team collected 276 samples of multiple organs from corpses derived from Finland, Italy, and the U.S.; sampling spanned postmortem intervals (PMIs) of 3.5 to 432 hours, with an average of 87.6 hours, and included tissues from cadavers corresponding to different manners of death grouped into four categories: accidental, natural, homicide, and suicide. The author notes that the research team was able to ascertain that geographic locality has a significant influence on microbial community composition of postmortem tissues, and that despite those differences, commonalities may still be identified among tissues as well as among individuals that died due to varying causes of death. They were unable to detect significant correlations between various samples and the postmortem interval, and the author suggests that that is likely because the sampling regimen was optimized to capture variation among geographic locality, organ type, and manner of death. The author reports significant patterns associated with the geography and manner of death and invites additional investigations to elucidate the origin of those associations.

Date Published: January 1, 2023