Apparently just the bacteria on your body can be used to uniquely identify you. Interesting forensic technique that I am sure could be abused in for other purposes.
Let’s say you wanted to find who has been using a particular office computer. Here’s how it would work:
“We could swab a keyboard key, for example, pull the bacterial DNA off that swab, and then identify all or nearly all of the bacteria that make up that community,” says Fierer.
So that’s what he did. He and his colleagues swabbed the individual keys from three personal computer keyboards, “and then matched those keys to the bacteria on the fingertips of the owners of the keyboard. And we showed that we could basically identify whose keyboard it was pretty well.”
Fierer then tried a similar experiment with people’s computer mice, and he could match a mouse to its owner. The findings appear in the current issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
In one final experiment, Fierer and his colleagues found that they could still perform an analysis of bacterial DNA two weeks after it had been left on a surface.
Fierer says he’s already had some informal discussions with law-enforcement agencies about his bacterial ID techniques, and there’s been interest in this approach. But Fierer’s the first to say it’s not ready for the courtroom. At least not yet.
“There’s a lot of work we need to do to figure out how accurate it is and what are the limitations and so forth, but, yeah, it’s encouraging. It does seem like we can actually take advantage of that uniqueness of our bacterial communities,” he says.