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Fingertip Bacteria: A Promising Forensic Tool


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Bacteria that rub off our fingertips and onto objects we touch could be used for forensic purposes.

Technology Review

It's not just our genomes that make us unique. The genomic profile of bacteria that rub off our fingertips and onto objects we touch--a computer keyboard, for instance--also provides a "fingerprint" that could be used for forensic purposes, according to researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Noah Fierer, Rob Knight, and colleagues recovered bacteria from keyboards of three individuals and sequenced large numbers of bacterial genomes at once.

The researchers extracted bacterial DNA from numerous samples taken from the three keyboards and sequenced more than 1,400 copies of bacterial ribosomal gene from each sample to identify the individual species of bacteria each sample contained, finding they could match the three individuals with the keyboards they used. They then took swabs from computer mouses of nine different people. When they compared the bacteria found in the samples to a database of microbial communities found on 270 hands of people who had never touched any of the computer mouses, the researchers found that the bacteria on each person's mouse was more similar to that on their hand than to samples in the database.

So far, Fierer notes, the technique is extremely preliminary, but it could one day be as accurate as techniques like DNA or fingerprint analysis, he says.

From Technology Review
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