Getting the finger from germs

New research from the University of Colorado at Boulder finds that germs might be as useful as fingerprints, potentially a major breakthrough for forensic scientists. It was revealed that touching objects, such as keyboards, leaves a unique bacterial DNA that can be matched to the person who left it behind.

According to LiveScience, previous research by Noah Fierer and his team had found that a person typically carries around about 150 bacterial species on their hand, and on average only 13 percent of those species are shared between two people.

Lead study author, Fierer says:

“Each one of us leaves a unique trail of bugs behind as we travel through our daily lives… While this project is still in its preliminary stages, it could provide a way for forensics experts to independently confirm the accuracy of DNA and   fingerprint analyses.”

Fierer’s team performed three experiments to test the accuracy of bacterial DNA. In the first test, they swabbed keyboards from three different computers for bacteria and were able to match each computer to its owner. A second experiment used swabs from nine different computer mice, where they also matched each to its owner.

The samples were compared to the DNA of 270 random people, and according to LiveScience, it was discovered the swabs from the computer owners were a significantly closer match to the bacterial DNA on each computer than the random samples. In a third experiment, BBC reports it was found that hand bacteria can survive at room temperature for up to two weeks and still provide an accurate analysis.

BBC also points out the technique is currently 70 percent to 90 percent accurate, and hopefully this percentage will increase as both the technique and technology improve. The study was published in this week’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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