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Definitions and Historical Perspectives in Environmental Forensics

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  • Authors: Gary A. Toranzos1, Raúl J. Cano2
  • Editors: Raúl J. Cano3, Gary A. Toranzos4
  • VIEW AFFILIATIONS HIDE AFFILIATIONS
    Affiliations: 1: University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus, San Juan, Puerto Rico 00933; 2: California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA 93407; 3: California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA; 4: University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras, San Juan, Puerto Rico
  • Source: microbiolspec March 2018 vol. 6 no. 2 doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.EMF-0016-2018
  • Received 29 January 2018 Accepted 05 February 2018 Published 09 March 2018
  • Gary A. Toranzos, [email protected]
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  • Abstract:

    Environmental forensics is a tool that uses chemical, physical, and statistical techniques to investigate contaminants in the environment as a means to determine attribution for legal purposes. Environmental microbiology is a branch of science that has benefited from the use of metagenomics. The term microbial forensics, which includes nucleic acid sequencing methods, is now used to investigate the sources of microorganisms for attribution purposes as well. Environmental microbial forensics can fully address the questions that must be answered for attribution of causation and subsequent remedial actions within a reasonably short time frame. Although forensics refers to obtaining scientific evidence to be presented during legal proceedings, the term is used as a description of the procedures used to reconstruct previous events, such as contamination. The term microbial forensics was first used to describe a forensic science approach for attribution purposes, specifically for bioterror as a purposeful release of pathogen microorganisms, but it also especially refers to investigations on the inadvertent or accidental release of pathogenic agents. However, microbial forensics can be used to determine the source of a microorganism or a group of microorganisms, regardless of whether they are pathogenic or not. Microbial forensics has limitations, but it should be used as part of a toolbox of methods to be relied upon when doing forensic studies. Environmental microbial forensics can only benefit from the development of new methods, and we already are experiencing a paradigm change in terms of approaches to the forensic sciences.

  • Citation: Toranzos G, Cano R. 2018. Definitions and Historical Perspectives in Environmental Forensics. Microbiol Spectrum 6(2):EMF-0016-2018. doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.EMF-0016-2018.

References

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/content/journal/microbiolspec/10.1128/microbiolspec.EMF-0016-2018
2018-03-09
2018-08-19

Abstract:

Environmental forensics is a tool that uses chemical, physical, and statistical techniques to investigate contaminants in the environment as a means to determine attribution for legal purposes. Environmental microbiology is a branch of science that has benefited from the use of metagenomics. The term microbial forensics, which includes nucleic acid sequencing methods, is now used to investigate the sources of microorganisms for attribution purposes as well. Environmental microbial forensics can fully address the questions that must be answered for attribution of causation and subsequent remedial actions within a reasonably short time frame. Although forensics refers to obtaining scientific evidence to be presented during legal proceedings, the term is used as a description of the procedures used to reconstruct previous events, such as contamination. The term microbial forensics was first used to describe a forensic science approach for attribution purposes, specifically for bioterror as a purposeful release of pathogen microorganisms, but it also especially refers to investigations on the inadvertent or accidental release of pathogenic agents. However, microbial forensics can be used to determine the source of a microorganism or a group of microorganisms, regardless of whether they are pathogenic or not. Microbial forensics has limitations, but it should be used as part of a toolbox of methods to be relied upon when doing forensic studies. Environmental microbial forensics can only benefit from the development of new methods, and we already are experiencing a paradigm change in terms of approaches to the forensic sciences.

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Steps involved in microbiome studies and technical factors that influence results.

Source: microbiolspec March 2018 vol. 6 no. 2 doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.EMF-0016-2018
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