PhD Defense by Diana W Williams

Event Details
  • Date/Time:
    • Tuesday March 27, 2018
      9:00 am - 11:00 am
  • Location: Petit Microelectronics Building 102B
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Summaries

Summary Sentence: Individualization of the Pubic Hair/Pubic Area Microbiome

Full Summary: No summary paragraph submitted.

 

In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of 

 

Doctor of Philosophy in Biology

in the 

School of Biological Sciences

 

Diana W. Williams

 

will defend her dissertation

 

Individualization of the Pubic Hair/Pubic Area Microbiome

And Its Potential as an Indicator of Sexual Contact

 

Tuesday, March 27th, 2018

9:00 AM

Petit Microelectronics Building 102B

 

Thesis Advisor:

Dr. Greg Gibson

School of Biological Sciences

Georgia Institute of Technology

 

Committee members: 

Dr. Frank Stewart

School of Biological Sciences

Georgia Institute of Technology

 

Dr. Joseph Lachance

School of Biological Sciences

Georgia Institute of Technology

 

Dr. Annalise Paaby

School of Biological Sciences

Georgia Institute of Technology

 

Dr. Timothy Kalafut

USACIL

Defense Forensic Science Center

 

 

 

Individualization of the Pubic Hair/Pubic Area Microbiome

And Its Potential as an Indicator of Sexual Contact

 

Abstract

 

The microbiome, specifically the human microbiome, is an area of intense research with potential forensic applications. If the microbiome of a given body area is individualizing, then the transfer of microbiomes between individuals could reveal contact between a victim and suspect. An important application would be in sexual assault cases where no semen is detected or analyzable. This thesis aimed to address whether the identification of individuals through their pubic hair/pubic area microbiome would support detection of biological transfer.

 

Sequencing of 16S rRNA gene fragments derived from pubic hair and pubic mound swabs of 43 individuals, including 12 sexually active couples and 19 unpaired singles, each providing 2 to 5 sets of samples over two months, allowed me to evaluate under which circumstances forensic individualization may be feasible. Random Forest modeling demonstrated 90% accuracy in assigning replicate samples to individuals, but had variable accuracy in pairing sexually active couples. Hierarchical clustering also provided some support for couples being more similar than random pairs of individuals, and a trend toward greater sharing with higher sexual activity was detected. Couples who never reported sexual activity in the week preceding sample collection did not cluster together, whereas couples who reported at least one instance of sexual activity in the week preceding sample collection shared clusters at least 25% of the time. Unexpectedly, elbow and ear swabs were as similar within couples as pubic samples, although they clustered irrespective of the degree of sexual activity.

 

These results suggest that detection of microbiome transfer during sexual activity is not guaranteed and will not generally identify the source from the general population. To explore the potential to identify or exclude suspects from a small pool of candidates, I performed in silico mixture modeling of pseudo-couples. These analyses implied that a minimum of 5% contribution from a donor is required to be able to detect any change in the host’s microbiome and at least 25% contribution is required for reliable detection. Evaluation of the SourceTracker tool for prediction of contributors to a microbiome profile consisting of Deblur OTU assignments also showed promise both for correctly identifying two or more contributors to a sample and for exclusion of non-contributors. While further work will be needed to refine these models, their potential is demonstrated for questions such as identification of a suspect from the general population, identification of a culprit from a small pool of suspects, and exculpation of a falsely accused individual from a small pool of suspects.

 

Additional limitations and concerns, such as best practices for analysis of low biomass samples, how most appropriately to handle contamination, and other crime laboratory considerations, are addressed in the concluding chapter. This thesis shows the potential of the pubic hair/pubic area microbiome and represents the first steps towards the development of a new tool for crime laboratories.

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Graduate Studies

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Phd Defense
Status
  • Created By: Tatianna Richardson
  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created On: Mar 5, 2018 - 11:59am
  • Last Updated: Mar 5, 2018 - 11:59am