By Bria Berry
Microbiologists serve many roles in the workforce as scientists, technicians, educators, and disease-preventionists. According to the Microbiology Society, you can find them developing vaccines for infectious diseases, such COVID-19, combating food-borne illnesses and climate change, providing quality control for our food and drinks, and teaching in academia.
However, one role that is not commonly discussed is in the context of Expert Witness Testimony. A great example of where microbiologists’ expertise is needed is in Forensic Investigation. In forensic cases, the evidence needed to incriminate the responsible person (s) lies in connection of the specimen to the causative agent. Forensic microbiologists use the sample specimen to collect and identify the microbial agents involved in the investigation. The techniques and technology, such as Next Generation Sequencing (NGS), need to accurately detect the microbial agents responsible for disease, as seen in the 2010 Haitian cholera outbreak (Blondeau et al., 2019). This physical evidence provides crucial support in a legal case incriminating the responsible person (s) for a crime with dire consequences, such as illness or death. Thus, cases involving bioterrorism, pathology, and product manufacturing contamination can all be supported by the efforts of forensic microbiologists (Carter et al., 2017).
Microbiologists are not only skilled, scientific assets but legal assets as well. An expert in microbiology can be important to have on a legal team and a key player in supporting a case involving contamination, illness, death, or risk of these outcomes.
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Blondeau, L. D., Rubin, J. E., Deneer, H., Kanthan, R., Sanche, S., Hamula, C., and Blondeau, J. M. (2019). Forensic, investigative and diagnostic microbiology: similar technologies but different priorities. Future Microbiology. 14:7, 553-558.
Carter, D. O., Tomberlin, J. K., Benbow, M. E., & Metcalf, J. L. (2017). Forensic microbiology.
Microbiology Society. (n.d.). What Do Microbiologists Do? https://microbiologysociety.org/careers/what-microbiologists-do.html
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