A Machine Learning Approach for Using the Postmortem Skin Microbiome to Estimate the Postmortem Interval

PloS One
Hunter R JohnsonNathan H Lents


Research on the human microbiome, the microbiota that live in, on, and around the human person, has revolutionized our understanding of the complex interactions between microbial life and human health and disease. The microbiome may also provide a valuable tool in forensic death investigations by helping to reveal the postmortem interval (PMI) of a decedent that is discovered after an unknown amount of time since death. Current methods of estimating PMI for cadavers discovered in uncontrolled, unstudied environments have substantial limitations, some of which may be overcome through the use of microbial indicators. In this project, we sampled the microbiomes of decomposing human cadavers, focusing on the skin microbiota found in the nasal and ear canals. We then developed several models of statistical regression to establish an algorithm for predicting the PMI of microbial samples. We found that the complete data set, rather than a curated list of indicator species, was preferred for training the regressor. We further found that genus and family, rather than species, are the most informative taxonomic levels. Finally, we developed a k-nearest- neighbor regressor, tuned with the entire data set from all nasal and ear samples, th...Continue Reading


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Methods Mentioned

feature extraction
amplicon sequencing

Related Concepts

Machine Learning
DNA, Bacterial
Livor Mortis
Forensic Pathology Discipline
Microbiota (plant)
Cessation of Life
Ear Structure

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