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Principles of Forensic DNA for Officers of the Court

Microbiology and Criminal Investigations

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Microbiology and forensic methods are beginning to merge in criminal investigations. Consider the following potential scenarios:

  • Bioterrorism: Individuals at multiple locations are exposed to anthrax. Can scientists identify the exact DNA strain and source of the B. anthracis used?
  • Suspicious death: A hospital patient succumbs to a staphylococcal infection that could have been prevented by proper procedures. Where did the infection originate, and how was it transmitted?
  • Intentional infection: One person intentionally infects another person with HIV. Can the donor of the virus be confirmed by DNA typing of a specific viral strain?
  • Large-scale food poisoning: Numerous individuals throughout a major U.S. city are hospitalized with food poisoning. Can the origin of an infectious agent such as E. coli or salmonella be found to prevent further outbreaks?

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