The more we learn about the thriving bacterial population (or microbiome) inside each of us, the more we begin to understand just how remarkable it is. And not just remarkable, but unique to each individual—so much so that it may one day it may be used as a forensic tool.
Using data from the Human Microbiome Project, researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health analyzed bacterial samples from the skin, mouth, gut, and vaginal area of more than 240 individuals. They then developed a computer formula that allowed them to create a personal microbial fingerprint for each participant.
From these fingerprints, scientists were able to identify one person from the next based on his or her bacterial makeup. Interestingly, the microbes in the gut produced the strongest signatures, and because the bacterial populations proved stable over time, months later more than 85% of the participants were still identifiable based on their gut bacteria.
Researchers believe their findings, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may one day expand the field of forensic science as well as further our understanding of the human microbiome and its role in human health and disease prevention.