Genetic analysis and attribution of microbial forensics evidence

Bruce Budowle, Martin D. Johnson, Claire M. Fraser, Terrance J. Leighton, Randall S. Murch, Ranajit Chakraborty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Because of the availability of pathogenic microorganisms and the relatively low cost of preparing and disseminating bioweapons, there is a continuing threat of biocrime and bioterrorism. Thus, enhanced capabilities are needed that enable the full and robust forensic exploitation and interpretation of microbial evidence from acts of bioterrorism or biocrimes. To respond to the need, greater resources and efforts are being applied to the burgeoning field of microbial forensics. Microbial forensics focuses on the characterization, analysis and interpretation of evidence for attributional purposes from a bioterrorism act, biocrime, hoax or inadvertent agent release. To enhance attribution capabilities, a major component of microbial forensics is the analysis of nucleic acids to associate or eliminate putative samples. The degree that attribution can be addressed depends on the context of the case, the available knowledge of the genetics, phylogeny, and ecology of the target microorganism, and technologies applied. The types of genetic markers and features that can impact statistical inferences of microbial forensic evidence include: single nucleotide polymorphisms, repetitive sequences, insertions and deletions, mobile elements, pathogenicity islands, virulence and resistance genes, house keeping genes, structural genes, whole genome sequences, asexual and sexual reproduction, horizontal gene transfer, conjugation, transduction, lysogeny, gene conversion, recombination, gene duplication, rearrangements, and mutational hotspots. Nucleic acid based typing technologies include: PCR, real-time PCR, MLST, MLVA, whole genome sequencing, and microarrays.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-254
Number of pages22
JournalCritical Reviews in Microbiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2005


  • Attribution
  • Genetic Markers
  • MLST
  • MLVA
  • Microarrays
  • Microbial Forensics
  • PCR
  • Real Time PCR
  • Sequencing


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