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The Human Virome as Trace Evidence in Forensic Investigation

NCJ Number
Date Published
15 pages

This is the Final Report of a research project designed to address the ongoing need to create forensically relevant linkages between persons, places, and objects by developing the untapped potential of the human viral microbiome (virome).


The human virome is a source of rich genetic diversity that requires examination to determine whether it is stable, transferable, and provides sufficient power of discrimination to be used as an alternative to traditional human forensic deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) tests when conditions for such tests are not suitable. The human bacterial microbiome has already been examined as an alternative method for postmortem interval determination and as a marker in cases that involve soil samples. The current project hypothesized that the genetic diversity in each human’s particular skin virome could be translated into a pattern profile that could be used to discriminate them from other people and that the virome profile could be detected when standard human DNA samples were not viable. The current project was conducted with protocols, instrumentation, and analytical methods that are either already in forensic DNA laboratories or can be readily assimilated. The impact of this work is that it provides an additional, powerful comparative DNA tool for cases in which human DNA is too scant or degraded to support the derivation of a statistically useful profile. Project conference papers are listed.


Date Published: January 1, 2022