Human Hair Microbiota

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Human hair samples are an important trace evidence type for providing leads in forensic investigations. They are used to determine the race, gender, and identity of the individual responsible for a criminal act. Hair also supports its own microbial habitat that is intra- and inter-personal variable, and as such, this little explored substrate has significant potential in forensics microbiome research due to the unique signatures that are available on an individual.

We explored 16S rRNA sequences from scalp and pubic hair microbiomes from healthy adults from multiple locations in the United States to investigate how the hair shaft micro- and macro-environment affects microbial variation. The results suggest that there are distinct differences between the microbial communities identified on hair shafts originating from different parts of the body, and that the hair microbiome retain geographically distinct signatures, and thus has the potential to be used to predict the source location of the hair.

Comparison of this hair sequence data to that of other publicly available 16S rRNA sequences obtained from other human body sites can be conducted using the Forensic Microbiome Database (FMD).

This project was supported by the J. Craig Venter Institute.