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Forensic scientists could use bacteria to catch criminals

Similarly, microbes found on smartphones could be accurately linked to their individual owners.

By Brooks Hays
Bacteria on the soles of shoes could help forensic scientists determine where a person has been. File Photo by David Silpa/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/29f12b6d8500439a6755d827604b58f6/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Bacteria on the soles of shoes could help forensic scientists determine where a person has been. File Photo by David Silpa/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, May 13 (UPI) -- Microorganisms are everywhere. Bacteria are the abundant and diverse life form on the planet. And each environment -- whether it's the top of a smartphone or the underside of a human armpit -- features a unique combination of microbes.

In other words, humans and objects they carry have personalized bacterial communities -- a microbial fingerprint. And carriers can leave traces of these communities in the places they visit and on the things they touch.

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Researchers believe a greater understanding of microbial communities (and these so-called fingerprints), and how they reveal themselves in difference environs, could benefit forensic science and the search for criminal perpetrators.

In a recent study, scientists were able to show that microbes on a person's shoe could recall where he or she had recently walked, and even potentially link the shoe to specific regions of the country. The same study found microbes found on smartphones could be accurately linked to their individual owners.

The same study, which analyzed microbial communities on attendees at a recent science convention, found people's microbiomes became more similar the longer they shared the same confines. As people shared the same spaces and interacted with each other at the conference, microbiotic communities took on shared features.

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The results of the study -- published recently in the journal Microbiome -- suggests a future for microbiotic research in the forensic scientists. But that future is still some ways off; much more research is needed.

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