September 22, 2019  |  

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

Authors: Metcalf, Jessica L and Wegener Parfrey, Laura and Gonzalez, Antonio and Lauber, Christian L and Knights, Dan and Ackermann, Gail and Humphrey, Gregory C and Gebert, Matthew J and Van Treuren, Will and Berg-Lyons, Donna and Keepers, Kyle and Guo, Yan and Bullard, James and Fierer, Noah and Carter, David O and Knight, Rob

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 we 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. Our 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. DOI:

Journal: eLife
DOI: 10.7554/eLife.01104
Year: 2013

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