Thursday, March 18, 2010

Real science: Our bacterial fingerprints!

Illustration accompanying the story at Wired that human use of computer keyboards leaves personally identifiable bacterial fingerprintsAlexis Madrigal's "You’re Leaving a Bacterial Fingerprint on Your Keyboard" at Wired. [via Boing Boing]

"The bacterial communities that live on human skin may form a bacterial fingerprint on the items that you touch."

"researchers swabbed three different keyboards and nine mice for bacteria, then compared the genomic variation between the communities to deduce whose hands had been touching what. The people were clearly identifiable from the bacterial communities they’d transferred to their computer input devices."

That's not quite good enough for forensic evidence yet because "researchers will need a lot more evidence that human microbiomes don’t change rapidly in time — and that bacterial communities transferred to keyboards endure with few changes." "in real-world forensics, ... evidence is often collected long after contact with a keyboard or other surface would have ceased."

However, "Even identical twins harbor substantially different microbial communities, suggesting that the collective genomes of our microbial symbionts may be more personally identifying than our own human genomes".