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The devil is in the details: Variable impacts of season, BMI, sampling site temperature, and presence of insects on the post-mortem microbiome

NCJ Number
Frontiers in Microbiology Dated: 7 December 2022
Date Published
December 2022
12 pages

The reported study investigated the impact of BMI, sex, insect activity, season, repeat sampling, decomposition time, and temperature on the microbial community sampled from donated human remains in San Marcos, TX, using a high-throughput gene-fragment metabarcoding approach.


Post-mortem microbial communities are increasingly investigated as proxy evidence for a variety of factors of interest in forensic science. The reported predictive power of the microbial community to determine aspects of the individual’s post-mortem history (e.g., the post-mortem interval) varies substantially among published research. This observed variation is partially driven by the local environment or the individuals themselves. The current study found that season, temperature at the sampling site, BMI, and sex had a significant effect on the post-mortem microbiome; the presence of insects had a homogenizing influence on the total bacterial community; and that community consistency from repeat sampling decreases as the decomposition process progresses. Moreover, this study demonstrates the importance of temperature at the site of sampling on the abundance of important diagnostic taxa. (Published abstract provided)

Date Published: December 1, 2022