The application of the skin virome for human identification

Abstract

The use of the skin virome offers a unique approach for human identification purposes in cases where a viable and statistically relevant human DNA profile is not available. The skin virome can act as an alternative DNA profile and/or an additional form of probative genetic material. To date, no studies have attempted to investigate the human virome over a time series across various physical locations in the body to identify its diagnostic potential as a human identification tool. To do so, human viral metagenomes were collected and sequenced from 42 individuals at three anatomical locations (left hand, right hand, and scalp) over multiple collection periods over a 6-month time window. Assembly-dependent and assembly-independent bioinformatics approaches, as well as database-centric evaluation of viral identification, resulted in three sets of putative stable viral markers. In total, with the three sets combined, the study identified 59 viral biomarker regions, composed of uncharacterized viral species and viral genome assemblies, that were stable over the sampling period. Additionally, the study found that the abundance profiles of these 59 viral biomarkers, based on presence or absence, were significantly different between subjects (P

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