It’s a line you’ll hear in almost any crime show after someone finds the body — the detective turns to the medical examiner and asks, “Time of death?” But in real life, medical examiners don’t have a very precise method for figuring out how long ago someone died.
Now, researchers say they could use the bacteria found on the body to provide a more accurate way to pinpoint the time of death, according to a new study.
In the study, published today (Dec. 22) in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers examined the “necrobiomes” of 21 cadavers. The necrobiome, or the community of bacteria found on a dead body, changes considerably as time passes after death and the body decomposes, according to the study. [The Science of Death: 10 Tales from the Crypt and Beyond]
Currently, medical examiners estimate the time of death by physically inspecting the body for signs