The real world, says microbiologist Abigail Salyers of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is just now coming to grips with the world of microbial evidence. Specifically, she says, standardized methods and acceptable means of quality control need to be established so that in a court of law any microbial evidence -- anthrax spores, for instance -- that link to a suspect are worthy of consideration by judges and juries.
Salyers, while president of the American Society for Microbiology, latched onto the issue amid the anthrax scare that followed Sept. 11, 2001, by pulling together microbiologists from various disciplines to discuss the issue in a Critical Issues Colloquia.
The group's report, to be available at ASM's Web site (www.asmusa.org), was discussed in part today during a news conference and a symposium Salyers organized for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The gathering of microbial evidence from criminal or civil cases involving such things as anthrax, HIV-AIDS and Staphylococcus epidermidis already is occurring and will continue to do so amid an explosion of scientific technology that makes it possible, she said.
"Today, there are cases that are more likely to come up in court. As a discipline, we need to be prepared," Salyers said. "Let's be thinking ahead so we don't have an O.J. Simpson situation where the validity of the tests used to gather certain evidence doesnt become the focal point of a trial. We must put into place quality control and standards that provide proper validation and interpretation so microbial evidence involving genetic information will be viewed ac
Contact: Jim Barlow, Life Sciences Editor
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign