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A microbial clock provides an accurate estimate of the postmortem interval in a mouse model system

NCJ Number
ELife Volume: Online Dated: 2013
Date Published

This article examines the use of bacterial and microbial eukaryotic ecology in establishing time since death in death investigations.


Establishing the time since death is critical in every death investigation, yet existing techniques are susceptible to a range of errors and biases. For example, forensic entomology is widely used to assess the postmortem interval (PMI), but errors can range from days to months. Microbes may provide a novel method for estimating PMI that avoids many of these limitations. Here the authors show that postmortem microbial community changes are dramatic, measurable, and repeatable in a mouse model system, allowing PMI to be estimated within approximately 3 days over 48 days. The authors’ results provide a detailed understanding of bacterial and microbial eukaryotic ecology within a decomposing corpse system and suggest that microbial community data can be developed into a forensic tool for estimating PMI. (Published Abstract Provided)

Date Published: January 1, 2013