In a development that may prove beneficial to forensic efforts, researchers at the University of Girona in Spain report that examining changes in the oral microbiome may help accurately determine time of death. Studying three cadavers donated to the University of Tennessee Forensic Anthropology Center, the investigators monitored the microbiota to identify signature bacterial taxa. Oral swabs were taken daily from the subjects (one male and two female) during various stages of decomposition.
“Microorganisms coexist with us during life, playing an important role in both health and disease. Upon death, and as the decomposition process advances, bacterial communities change according to the newly set environmental conditions,” reports Joe Adserias-Garriga, DDS, PhD, D-ABFO, lead author of the study. Published in Molecular Oral Microbiology, the paper, “Dynamics of the Oral Microbiota as a Tool to Estimate Time Since Death,” notes the cadavers “showed similar overall successional changes during the decomposition process.” This led the team to suggest that examining the oral microbiota may help forensic scientists establish time of death more accurately during their investigations.