Successive bacterial colonisation of pork and its implications for forensic investigations

Noemi Procopio, Jessica Handke, Michael Buckley, Dieudonne van der Meer, Graham Williams, Martin Carr, Anna Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Bacteria are considered one of the major driving forces of the mammalian decomposition process and have only recently been recognised as forensic tools. At this point, little is known about their potential use as ‘post-mortem clocks’. This study aimed to establish the proof of concept for using bacterial identification as post-mortem interval (PMI) indicators, using a multi-omics approach.

Methods and results
Pieces of pork were placed in the University’s outdoor facility and surface swabs were taken at regular intervals up to 60 days. Terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) of the 16S rDNA was used to identify bacterial taxa. It succeeded in detecting two out of three key contributors involved in decomposition and represents the first study to reveal Vibrionaceae as abundant on decomposing pork. However, a high fraction of present bacterial taxa could not be identified by T-RFLP. Proteomic analyses were also performed at selected time points, and they partially succeeded in the identification of precise strains, subspecies and species of bacteria that colonized the body after different PMIs.

T-RFLP is incapable of reliably and fully identifying bacterial taxa, whereas proteomics could help in the identification of specific strains of bacteria. Nevertheless, microbial identification by next generation sequencing might be used as PMI clock in future investigations and in conjunction with information provided by forensic entomologists.

Significance and impact of the study
To the best of our knowledge, this work represents the first attempt to find a cheaper and easily accessible, culture-independent alternative to high-throughput techniques to establish a ‘microbial clock’, in combination with proteomic strategies to address this issue.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalForensic Science International
Early online date20 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017


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