Research in the field of the human microbiome has lead to very interesting discoveries which could revolutionize forensic science, and add to our growing knowledge of human health. Our postmortem microbiome gives us much insight into the life of the person, based on the diversity of bacteria which remain in a given person’s system. A study, presented in a Live Science article, conducted in Wayne County Medical Examiner’s office in Detroit found that different sites on the body had different populations of bacteria. These cultures of bacteria can allow us to study the health of specific parts of a person more closely. For example, the bacteria found in a person’s mouth would vary greatly from that of the person’s eye, and the diversity of certain bacteria in these areas can correlate to a high probability of infection.

Pie charts mapping diversity of bacteria in human microbiome in various areas of the body

Specifically in the realm of forensics, a major reduction in diversity of the postmortem microbiome occurs after 48 hours of the person dying, a valuable indicator of time of death to detectives, according to study co-author and forensic entomologist at Michigan State University, Eric Benbow.


Additionally, the postmortem microbiome of a given person can act as a record of one’s heart health, in particular, whether or not that person had a heart infection in their life. Researchers of the changes in the postmortem microbiome find strong links between the lack of diversity in a person’s microbiome and susceptibility to heart disease. In particular, an abundant presence of Rothia bacteria has been linked with endocarditis, an infect of the heart’s valves. The ability to have records of human heart health after has larger implications than one may realize. It is a convoluted process to track national heart health because of the sheer number of people which must be addressed, all while they are still living. A given person would only be properly diagnosed with a heart issue like endocarditis if they were alive and had issues necessitating an intense medical processes, thus making it difficult to accurate record data on a larger scale. Now with this resource of our postmortem microbiome as a record of our heart health, large scale data collection and analysis can be conducted, thus advancing our knowledge of the topic.

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