Stable-isotope fingerprints of biological agents as forensic tools

Juske Horita, Arpad A. Vass

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Naturally occurring stable isotopes of light elements in chemical and biological agents may possess unique "stable-isotope fingerprints" depending on their sources and manufacturing processes. To test this hypothesis, two strains of bacteria (Bacillus globigii and Erwinia agglomerans) were grown under controlled laboratory conditions. We observed that cultured bacteria cells faithfully inherited the isotopic composition (hydrogen, carbon, and nitrogen) of media waters and substrates in predictable manners in terms of bacterial metabolism and that even bacterial cells of the same strain, which grew in media water and substrates of different isotopic compositions, have readily distinguishable isotopic signatures. These "stable-isotopic fingerprints" of chemical and biological agents can be used as forensic tools in the event of biochemical terrorist attacks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)122-126
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Forensic Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2003


  • Biological agents
  • Fingerprints
  • Forensic science
  • Isotope ratio-mass spectrometry
  • Source identification
  • Stable isotope ratios


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