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01.03.2012 | Original Article | Ausgabe 2/2012

International Journal of Legal Medicine 2/2012

Vaginal microbial flora analysis by next generation sequencing and microarrays; can microbes indicate vaginal origin in a forensic context?

International Journal of Legal Medicine > Ausgabe 2/2012
Corina C. G. Benschop, Frederike C. A. Quaak, Mathilde E. Boon, Titia Sijen, Irene Kuiper
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Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1007/​s00414-011-0660-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Both C. C. G. Benschop and F. Quaak contributed equally. M. Boon is the pathologist responsible for the morphologic evaluation of the cervical brush samples.


Forensic analysis of biological traces generally encompasses the investigation of both the person who contributed to the trace and the body site(s) from which the trace originates. For instance, for sexual assault cases, it can be beneficial to distinguish vaginal samples from skin or saliva samples. In this study, we explored the use of microbial flora to indicate vaginal origin. First, we explored the vaginal microbiome for a large set of clinical vaginal samples (n = 240) by next generation sequencing (n = 338,184 sequence reads) and found 1,619 different sequences. Next, we selected 389 candidate probes targeting genera or species and designed a microarray, with which we analysed a diverse set of samples; 43 DNA extracts from vaginal samples and 25 DNA extracts from samples from other body sites, including sites in close proximity of or in contact with the vagina. Finally, we used the microarray results and next generation sequencing dataset to assess the potential for a future approach that uses microbial markers to indicate vaginal origin. Since no candidate genera/species were found to positively identify all vaginal DNA extracts on their own, while excluding all non-vaginal DNA extracts, we deduce that a reliable statement about the cellular origin of a biological trace should be based on the detection of multiple species within various genera. Microarray analysis of a sample will then render a microbial flora pattern that is probably best analysed in a probabilistic approach.

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