Microbial Forensics


Microbial forensics is a newly developed discipline with an epidemiological foundation dedicated to the characterization, analysis and interpretation of evidence from the scene of an act of bioterrorism or a biocrime. It is an evolving subdiscipline of forensic sciences, which combines several disciplines including microbiology, molecular biology, genomics, bioinformatics and biochemistry. Microbial forensic investigations are carried out to obtain information regarding the identification or source of the material used in an act of bioterrorism, biocrime, hoax or unintentional release of a microorganism or toxin, with the ultimate goal of identifying those responsible for the crime (i.e. attribution). Attribution could be key to criminal prosecution of the individual or individuals, or for supporting actions that may be taken as a result of national policy decisions.

Keywords: attribution; forensics; bioterrorism; anthrax

Figure 1.

Investigator in full personal protective equipment collecting potentially hazardous microbial forensics evidence. Courtesy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.


Further Reading

Breeze RG, Budowle B and Schutzer SE (eds) (2005) Microbial Forensics. San Diego, CA: Elsevier Academic Press.

Budowle B, Johnson MD, Fraser CM et al. (2005) Genetic analysis and attribution of microbial forensic evidences. Critical Reviews in Microbiology 31: 233–254.

Budowle B, Schutzer SE, Einseln A et al. (2003) Building microbial forensics as a response to bioterrorism. Science 301: 1852–1853.

Jernigan JA, Stephens DS, Ashford DA et al. (2001) Bioterrorism‐related inhalational anthrax: the first 10 cases reported in the United States. Emerging Infectious Diseases 7: 933–944.

Keim P (2003) Microbial Forensics: A Scientific Assessment. Washington, DC: American Society for Microbiology.

Kreuzer‐Martin HW, Chesson LA, Lott MJ et al. (2004) Stable isotope ratios as a tool in microbial forensics: Part 2. Isotopic variation among different growth media as a tool for sourcing origins of bacterial cells or spores. Journal of Forensic Science 49: 1–7.

Lindler LE, Huang X‐Z, Chu M et al. (2005) Genetic fingerprinting of biodefense pathogens for epidemiology and forensic investigation. In: Lindler LE, Lebeda FJ and Korch GW (eds) Biological Weapons Defense: Infectious Diseases and Counterbioterrorism, pp. 453–480. Totowa, NJ: Humana Press.

Morse SA and Budowle B (2006) Microbial forensics: application to bioterrorism preparedness and response. Infectious Disease Clinics of North America 20: 455–473.

Murch RS (2003) Microbial forensics: building a national capacity to investigate bioterrorism. Biosecurity and Bioterrorism 1: 117–122.

Takahashi H, Keim P, Kaufmann AF et al. (2004) Bacillus anthracis incident, Kameido, Tokyo, 1993. Emerging Infectious Diseases 10: 117–120.

Tibayrenc M (2001) A European centre to respond to threats of bioterrorism and major Epidemics. Bulletin of the World Health Organization 79: 1094.

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How to Cite close
Morse, Stephen A, and Budowle, Bruce(Dec 2008) Microbial Forensics. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0004035]