- Associated Press - Thursday, October 30, 2014

DETROIT (AP) - Michigan State University is using an $866,000 federal grant to help Detroit death-scene investigators examine bacteria and other microbes associated with dead bodies.

The university said Wednesday it will use the U.S. Justice Department grant to work with the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office. The grant is shared with Mississippi State University.

Researchers will study the bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms collected at death scenes. Those microbes could provide important details associated with a death, including gender, race, socioeconomics, location of death and more, according to Michigan State entomologist and osteopathic medical specialist Eric Benbow.

“We know how important the human microbiome, the bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms that live in your body, is to human health,” he said. “We, and other researchers, hypothesize that these communities play an equally important role in post-mortem. We are the first university to work directly with medical examiners in this capacity, pioneering the collection of novel human microbiome information at the scene of death or during autopsy.”

The partnership will allow researchers to study microbial communities in real time, rather than relying on donated bodies that have been handled and cooled during transport.

“Donated bodies don’t work as well because they have been handled, cooled or frozen while being transported. This can influence and change the microbial communities,” Benbow said. “Working with a large, metropolitan examiner’s office allows us to participate in investigations as they happen. It’s real-world, translational and real-time and may have immediate relevance and benefits.”

Researchers plan to help investigators with their cases and test new approaches and techniques.

Benbow will use the Detroit partnership to create a repository of the samples and data that are collected. He will then share the findings with the public so other scientists can benefit from the information.

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Online:

Details: https://bit.ly/10Ci9sw

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