Officials, victims, and family and friends of victims of crime often want to identify the perpetrator of the crime and to exclude those who could not have committed the crime. Science can assist in that endeavor by characterizing physical evidence found at the crime scene. The fields of human DNA analysis, hair morphology comparisons, handwriting, fingerprint identification, drug analysis, ballistics, tool marks, and others are well established in forensic science.
In the 21st century, the ability to manipulate and disseminate pathogens has increased to a point where there are grave concerns about potential use of microbiological organisms and their toxins to attack and cause serious harm to humans, animals, and plants. These new scenarios of threat and crime can also be addressed using forensic science practices for identifying perpetrators of crimes and to protect the innocent. The field of microbial forensics, with the goal of attribution, has begun to crystallize, and much effort nationally and internationally is being dedicated to develop and form this field into a mature science. This introductory chapter describes the efforts and needs of the microbial forensics field. First, the threat is defined. Then, historical examples of bioweapons use are provided not only to familiarize readers with the potential use, but to show that such weapons do exist and have been used. As
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some readers may not be familiar with forensic science, a general description of the basics of forensic science practices are provided in a following section. Subsequently, the microbial forensic field is defined, and the efforts and needs of the field are discussed. Lastly, education efforts are stressed as a key to disease surveillance and appropriate public response to a disease outbreak, whether it is intentional or natural.
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