Use of Microbial Source Tracking in the Legal Arena: Benefits and Challenges
Public health risks attributable to microbial pathogens are of serious concern and their evaluation is necessary to provide assurances of safety for food, drinking water supplies, recreational surface waters, beneficial water reuse (e.g., irrigation of areas accessible to the public), health care, and other applications. Litigation or other legal processes that may arise from individual infection/illness claims, from claims of damage to a public resource, or from criminal cases, often are practically limited by the ability to identify an unambiguous source of a putative infectious agent or pollution source with a high degree of certainty. Applied in rigorous fashion, microbial source tracking (MST) has the potential to assist in identification of likely bacterial or viral agents with both accuracy and precision. Satisfaction of the relevant contemporary scientific criteria for demonstration of a persuasive linkage is not necessarily sufficient to satisfy applicable legal criteria. A working understanding of acceptable requirements for both the technical and legal audiences is useful to scientists who seek to apply the principles and practices of MST within the legal process.
KeywordsRisk Public health Legal Pathogens Safety Litigation
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