Frontiers in microbiology. 2021-03-23; 12.644861.

Forensic Microbiome Database: A Tool for Forensic Geolocation Meta-Analysis Using Publicly Available 16S rRNA Microbiome Sequencing

Singh H, Clarke T, Brinkac L, Greco C, Nelson KE

PMID: 33833745


The human microbiome has been proposed as a tool to investigate different forensic questions, including for the identification of multiple personal information. However, the fragmented state of the publicly available data has retarded the development of analysis techniques and, therefore, the implementation of microbiomes as a forensic tool. To address this, we introduce the forensic microbiome database (FMD), which is a collection of 16S rRNA data and associated metadata generated from publicly available data. The raw data was further normalized and processed using a pipeline to create a standardized data set for downstream analysis. We present a website allowing for the exploration of geolocation signals in the FMD. The website allows users to investigate the taxonomic differences between microbiomes harvested from different locations and to predict the geolocation of their data based on the FMD sequences. All the results are presented in dynamic graphics to allow for a rapid and intuitive investigation of the taxonomic distributions underpinning the geolocation signals and prediction between locations. Apart from the forensic aspect, the database also allows exploration and comparison of microbiome samples from different geolocation and between different body sites. The goal of the FMD is to provide the scientific and non-scientific communities with data and tools to explore the possibilities of microbiomes to answer forensic questions and serve as a model for any future such databases.