“Touch microbiome” as a potential tool for forensic investigation: A pilot study

Procopio, Noemi, Lovisolo, Flavia, Sguazzi, Giulia, Ghignone, Stefano, Voyron, Samuele, Migliario, Mario, Renò, Filippo, Sellitto, Federica, D'Angiolella, Gabriella, Tozzo, Pamela, Caenazzo, Luciana and Gino, Sarah (2021) “Touch microbiome” as a potential tool for forensic investigation: A pilot study. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, 82. p. 102223. ISSN 1752-928X

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jflm.2021.102223


Human skin hosts a variety of microbes that can be transferred to surfaces (“touch microbiome”). These microorganisms can be considered as forensic markers similarly to “touch DNA”. With this pilot study, we wanted to evaluate the transferability and persistence of the “touch microbiome” on a surface after the deposition of a fingerprint and its exposure for 30 days at room temperature. Eleven volunteers were enrolled in the study. Skin microbiome samples were collected by swabbing the palm of their hands; additionally, donors were asked to touch a glass microscope slide to deposit their fingerprints, that were then swabbed. Both human and microbial DNA was isolated and quantified. Amelogenin locus and 16 human STRs were amplified, whereas the V4 region of 16 S rRNA gene was sequenced using Illumina MiSeq platform. STR profiles were successfully typed for 5 out of 22 “touch DNA” samples, while a microbiome profile was obtained for 20 out of 22 “touch microbiome” samples. Six skin core microbiome taxa were identified, as well as unique donor characterizing taxa. These unique taxa may have relevance for personal identification studies and may be useful to provide forensic intelligence information also when “touch DNA” fails. Additional future studies including greater datasets, additional time points and a greater number of surfaces may clarify the applicability of “touch microbiome” studies to real forensic contexts.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Funding information: This research received funding from UKRI through a Future Leaders Fellowship (Noemi Procopio - MR/S032878/1) and from the Department of Health Sciences - University of Piemonte Orientale for FAR 2017 (Filippo Renò, Mario Migliario e Sarah Gino).
Uncontrolled Keywords: Microbiome, Touch DNA, Next-generation sequencing, STR analysis, Personal identification, DNA fingerprinting
Subjects: F400 Forensic and Archaeological Science
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > Applied Sciences
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 28 Jul 2021 13:48
Last Modified: 12 Aug 2021 12:11
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/46788

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