Investigating the genital microbiome by metagenomic sequencing and qPCR to prove sexual contact
About the session
During sexual contact, material from the genital microbiome could be transferred between both partners. This hypothesis could serve as an alternative test when collecting forensic evidence in sexual assault cases. Our project investigates the genital microbiome by deep metagenomic sequencing followed by developing a real-time PCR assay for specific genital microbial taxa with the potential to be signature organisms for the female and male genital microbiomes. Pre- and post-coital genital samples from 19 female and male volunteers were collected, extracted, quantified and amplified using the qPCR-based methodology. Four Lactobacilli species were investigated and tested for vaginal specificity that have been proposed to make up the bulk of a healthy vaginal microbiome, whereas Gardnerella vaginalis is solely present in females with bacterial vaginosis. Results show that during sexual contact, bacteria are transferred that can be used in forensic science to objectively prove if sexual contact occurred.
Florida International University, USA.
Bruce R. McCord is an analytical chemist developing procedures for forensic analysis including both biochemical (genomics) and chemical assays (trace analysis). His current research interests involve forensic epigenetics, rapid PCR, microfluidics and surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy. Previously, he worked as an Assistant Professor at Ohio University and a Research Chemist at the FBI Laboratory. Dr. McCord has published over 130 peer reviewed papers, 11 patents and 16 book chapters and serves as Deputy Editor for the journal Electrophoresis, Editor for Forensic Sciences (MDPI) and is a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Forensic Chemistry.
George Duncan finished a job as a Visiting Postdoctoral Associate in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Florida International University and is presently Affiliated Faculty at Nova Southeastern University, and an adjunct Professor at Florida Atlantic University. Prior to that he was DNA Unit Manager of the Broward Sheriff’s Office DNA unit in Fort Lauderdale, Florida for 45 years. His present research interests involve the development of applications in forensic genomics, epigenetics, microbiome, and nanoscale sensing. Major research areas also include development of improved forensic and environmental applications for genetic analysis using capillary and microfluidic electrophoresis, DNA sequencing, and environmental qPCR. He has been affiliated with Dr. Jack Gilbert, now at the University of California San Diego concerning forensic applications of the human microbiome. One publication from that work entitled “Detecting personal microbiota signatures at artificial crime scenes” was published in 2020 in Forensic Science International while the original effort was published in Time Magazine in 2015. The most recent publication was entitled; “The genital microbiome and its potential for detecting sexual assault”, published in 2021.
McCord Lab, Florida International University, USA.
Mirna Ghemrawi is a doctoral student in biochemistry with a forensic science focus. Researching at the McCord Lab in Florida International University, Mirna is currently developing genetic testing for species identification, developing epigenetic assays for body fluid identification and investigating the applicability of microbiomics in forensic contexts. Hailing from Lebanon, Mirna completed her B.S. in Medical Laboratory Sciences on a merit scholarship at Haigazian University. She was then granted the Fulbright scholarship to pursue her master’s degree in Forensic and Investigative sciences at Purdue University in the USA. She joined the McCord Lab as a Ph.D. candidate in 2018.