Forensic Investigation of Bioterror Attack from Crime Scene to Court: A Review

The detrimental effect of crimes cost our society valuable resources including loss of lives in extreme cases. Unfortunately, the rate and manner in which crimes are committed now is becoming more sophisticated especially with the use of biological agents. Bioterrorism have potentials to cause havoc to humanity just like other sources such as nuclear weapons. One of such cases is the recent anthrax attack in USA 2001; a bioterror attack that had lead to the development of a new field of microbial forensics. In addition, they have forensic profiles that can aid in their identification. However, cases involving them rarely appeared in court. Deliberate release of microbes or their toxins to harm or kill an individual in a community, deliberate transmission from infected person to another and /or through food as well as medical negligence have been identified as ways in which bio crimes are committed. Morphological characteristics, genomic and bioinformatics are the possible ways of identifying biological threats involved in a crime. Collaboration among forensic scientists, public health workers and law enforcement agencies is said to be crucial in investigating biological attack. Controlling the crime scene, maintaining chain of custody, validating methods, proficiency testing and defendable interpretation of results will need to be performed to very high standards to ensure admissibility of results in court. More research, training and development of module(s) in this area to be taught as part of the requirement for the award of degrees in forensic science are suggested.

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