A National Security Perspective of Microbial Source Tracking



Protecting a nations’ waters and those that utilize these waters for drinking, recreation, and/or shellfishing is of paramount importance from both a public health and national security perspective. Molecular methods for microbial source tracking (MST) have been developed over the last 2 decades to address needs regarding the source of natural microbial contamination of these critical water resources. MST has gained a foothold in the water-quality arena over the past decade as the limitations of the fecal indicator paradigm pertaining to protecting public health have been recognized. Microbial forensics (MF) has been developed since approximately 1996 but only became a national security priority following the anthrax attacks of 2001. The research efforts in the fields of MF and MST have been developed along parallel lines to address the needs of security and health, respectively. This chapter addresses the similarities and differences between MST and MF and how methodologies developed for MST can be applied to forensic analysis of public health incidents involving possible intentional use of microorganisms. Examples from natural contamination incidents that could provide lessons for investigations of possible intentional releases are highlighted. Challenges facing the use of MST and MF techniques, as well as future research needs, are also discussed.


Microbial forensics Water security Microbial signatures Bioterrorism Biocrime 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Cell Biology, Microbiology and Molecular BiologyUniversity of South FloridaTampaUSA

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