Terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism profiling of bacterial flora derived from single human hair shafts can discriminate individuals

Eiji Nishi, Kota Watanabe, Yukihiro Tashiro, Kenji Sakai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Citations (Scopus)


Human hairs are the trace evidence most commonly encountered at many crime scenes. However, they have not been effectively utilized for actual criminal investigations because of the low accuracy of their morphological inspection, low detection rate of short tandem repeat (STR) typing, and the problem of heteroplasmy in mitochondrial DNA analysis. Here, we examined the possibility of individual discrimination by comparing profiles of bacterial flora on hair. We carried out the profiling of terminal restriction fragment length polymorphisms (T-RFLP) of the amplified bacterial 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) gene from hair samples. Compared with existing STR typing methods that use hair roots, this method using hair shafts allowed the detection of stable bacterial DNA. We successfully obtained the T-RFLP profile from single hair shafts of all volunteers tested. The profiles were specific to each individual, and multiple profiles obtained from the individual him/herself showed higher similarity than those from different individuals. These individual-specific profiles were stably obtained from samples from most volunteers, when collected again after 6 months. Storage of the collected hair samples at −30 °C was effective for obtaining reproducible T-RF profiles. When unidentified hair samples collected in the laboratory were compared with a pre-constructed database, 17 of 22 hairs were assigned to a small group of people, including the corresponding individuals. These results show that T-RFLP analysis of bacterial flora on a hair shaft found at a crime scene could provide useful information for narrowing down a suspect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-82
Number of pages8
JournalLegal Medicine
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2017


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects

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