U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.


Friday, September 24, 2021

National Institute of Justice Examines Research to More Accurately Determine Time of Death

      WASHINGTON — The Office of Justice Programs’ National Institute of Justice today published an article discussing how NIJ-funded researchers are using microbes involved in human decomposition to more accurately determine how long a body has been deceased.

      Using the progression of insect populations during the first two weeks of decomposition has long served as an indicator, or “clock,” for determining a time of death. But in recent years several NIJ-supported researchers have been trying to extend the clock to cover longer time periods and serve as a more precise measurement by focusing on the microbes that consume a body after death.

      Unlike insects, trillions of microbes, such as viruses, bacteria and fungi, live in our bodies. While they are not harmful to living persons, at the moment of death, microbes inside the body and from the surrounding environment start breaking down organs and other tissue. Knowing which microbes appear and when, as decomposition progresses, is the basis for the postmortem microbial clock.

      TITLE:  The Search for a Microbial Death Clock

      AUTHORS:  National Institute of Justice

      WHERE:  https://nij.ojp.gov/topics/articles/search-microbial-death-clock

                       To receive notifications of NIJ publications, register here.

      The Office of Justice Programs provides federal leadership, grants, training, technical assistance and other resources to improve the nation’s capacity to prevent and reduce crime, advance racial equity in the administration of justice, assist victims and enhance the rule of law.  More information about OJP and its components can be found at www.ojp.gov.


OFFICE:  nij.ojp.gov
CONTACT:  Sheila Jerusalem at 202-598-0793 or [email protected]

Date Created: September 24, 2021