Bacteria on Skin May Be Used to ID Criminals

Study shows people can be identified by their bugs
By Emily Rauhala,  Newser User
Posted Mar 16, 2010 8:45 AM CDT

(Newser) – Forget fingerprints: The latest crime fighting tool may be the traces of bacteria we carry on our skin. A new study shows it is possible to identify people based on their personal brand of bacteria. "Each one of us leaves a unique trail of bugs behind," a researcher says. By tracing that trail, scientists were able to match samples to specific people with 70% to 90% accuracy. "We think the technique could eventually become a valuable new item in the toolbox of forensic scientists,” he tells the Independent.

The process is unlikely to replace fingerprinting—which can find a perfect match—but would be used when fingerprints aren't available. To make the breakthrough, researchers relied on a relatively new approach called “metagenomics,” which allows scientists to analyze an entire collection of genomes in one go. (Read more crime stories.)

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