WASHINGTON — Forensic scientists could soon use hand germs to help identify criminals and victims, a study said Monday.
Researchers led by Noah Fierer of the University of Colorado at Boulder swabbed individual keys on three personal computer keyboards, extracted bacterial DNA from the swabs and compared the results with bacteria on the fingertips of the keyboards’ users.
They also lifted germs from an unspecified number of other private and public computer keyboards that the three individuals did not use to see if there was a cross-over between the bacteria on an individual’s hands and bacteria on keyboards that had never been touched by that individual.
The bacteria on each person’s fingers were “personal” and gave a much closer match to the germs on the keyboard they used than to bacteria found on keyboards they had never touched, the researchers said.
The researchers also swabbed nine personal computer mice that had not been touched for at least 12 hours and took bacteria samples from the palms of their owners.
The bacteria on each mouse were “significantly more similar” to those found on the owner’s hand than to bacteria taken from 270 other hands, which were on record from previous studies.
“Each one of us leaves a unique trail of bugs behind as we travel through our daily lives,” said Fierer, a professor at the University of Colorado’s ecology and evolutionary biology department, adding that hand bugs could “become a valuable new item in the toolbox of forensic scientists.”
Hand germs are abundant, can be lifted from small areas and are remarkably hardy. The researchers found that colonies of hand bacteria remain essentially unchanged after two weeks at room temperature, and recovered within hours of handwashing.
Fingerprints, however, can be smudged or impossible to obtain, such as on fabric.
And unless there is blood, tissue, semen or saliva on an object, it is often difficult to obtain enough human DNA for forensic identification, said the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
“Given the abundance of bacterial cells on the skin surface… it may be easier to recover bacterial DNA than human DNA from touched surfaces although additional studies are needed to confirm that this is actually true,” the study said.
World hunger on the rise with more than 820 million at risk, UN report says
More than 821 million people suffered from hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition worldwide last year, the United Nations reported Monday -- the third year in a row that the number has risen.
After decades of decline, food insecurity began to increase in 2015 and reversing the trend is one of the 2030 targets of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.
But getting to a world where no one is suffering from hunger by then remains an "immense challenge," the report said.
"The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World" was produced by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and other UN agencies including the World Health Organization.
‘It’s just sparkling racism’: Internet mocks the hell out of the New York Times for describing Trump’s comments as ‘racially infused’
In an analysis piece in the New York Times on Sunday, chief White House correspondent opted to describe President Donald Trump’s overtly racist comments on Democratic congresswomen color as “racially infused” — an euphemism one Twitter user joked is “the worst flavor of LaCroix.”
Trump over the weekend caused an uproar in the media by tweeting the following:
Fox News’ John Roberts tells Trump to his face: ‘White nationalists are finding common cause with you’
Fox News reporter John Roberts asked President Donald Trump to his face whether he cared that white nationalists agreed with his views on race.
The president provoked widespread outrage by calling on four Democratic congresswomen -- all women of color -- to leave the country because they disagreed with his policies, and Trump insisted his tweets were not racist while continuing to lob bigoted attacks at them.
"Mr. President," Roberts asked during an impromptu Monday news conference, "does it concern you that many people saw that tweet as racist, and that white nationalist groups are finding common cause with you on that point?"