This final report describes a project that aimed at developing an efficient viral DNA collection/extraction protocol for touched objects and testing the researchers’ previous bioinformatic pipeline to determine if it was equally viable for evidence from peoples’ skin.
The author describes a research project that was designed to address the ongoing need to create forensically relevant linkages between persons, places, and objects by continuing to develop the potential for using the human viral microbiome (virome). The driving hypothesis was that the genetic diversity contained in each human being’s particular virome can be transferred to physical objects and detected in situations where standard human DNA samples will not yield a usable profile. In the report, the author discusses the potential for virome profiles developed from cut hairs; research methodology, protocols, and instrumentation; and analysis methods. The research team had two primary goals: to develop an efficient viral DNA collection/extraction protocol for touched objects; and to test their previous bioinformatic pipeline to determine if it was as viable for evidence samples collected directly from peoples’ skin as it was for the original evidentiary items. Results produced collection and extraction protocols yielding DNA that led to substantial numbers of sequencing reads, but relatively few useful contigs, as compared to samples collected directly from human skin. However, the author notes the significance of this result since it demonstrated for the first time that forensically useful information can be gathered from viral material transferred from a person’s skin to the surface of an object.