A new study has shown that germs on phones, shoes and other personal belongings can help locate a person’s whereabouts. Making a crime scene an even richer source of evidence for forensic teams thanpreviously thought.
As scientists know bacteria are everywhere. Microorganisms like bacteria are small, diverse and often specific to certain environments. A pilot study has shown that the germs on personal belongings such as shoes and mobile phones are actually a useful way of tracing a person’s whereabouts, something that may prove useful in forensic investigations. Bacteria may also determine the possibility to trace people’s origin using the microbial community of their shoes.
Excellent forensic tools
Microorganisms are also often specific to certain environments, organisms or individuals. Similar to DNA and fingerprints, a suspect can unknowingly leave microbes behind on a crime scene or victim, providing useful information about the identity or origin of the suspect for forensic scientists. Mobile phones could also be of used in this way. Studies have demonstrated that the pattern of microbes found on a telephone is unique. There are also differences between the front and the back since the back is mainly in contact with the hands and the front comes into contact with the face and mouth. These observations are supported by studies that demonstrated how different microbial communities are from different body parts and that the personal microbial signature are unique.
Over past few years much work has been done in order to use the changes in the biome associated with decomposing bodies, called “necrobiome”, to estimate the time since death. The idea behind this approach follows what is already known and applied in another forensic discipline: forensic entomology.
Although microbiome on the soles of our shoes typically changes throughout the day, which could make it hard to pinpoint the places visited if we have walked
around a lot. In the same way, the microbiome of a certain floor is also altered if a lot of people walk on it.
The study carried out in the US looked at shoes from 89 participants randomly selected from attendees at three different scientific conferences. More work is
needed to determine the practical use of it in the future. A first step would be expand and introduce more people to the experiment.