Use of an Automated Nested Multiplex Respiratory Pathogen PCR Panel Postmortem in the Pediatric Forensic Setting*

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Abstract

Respiratory pathogens have been detected in forensic investigations using multiple techniques; however, no study has examined the use of automated, nested, multiplex polymerase chain reaction (ANM-PCR), commonly used in living patients, in the forensic setting. This retrospective study assessed the utility of ANM-PCR in detecting respiratory pathogens in the pediatric forensic setting. Respiratory samples from 35 cases were tested for up to 20 respiratory pathogens. 51.4% of these cases yielded a positive ANM-PCR result, 20% of which were considered the cause of or contributory to death. The most commonly detected pathogens were rhinovirus/enterovirus and respiratory syncytial virus, and these were the only pathogens determined to play a significant role in cause of death. The sampled sites and postmortem intervals tested did not affect the likelihood of a positive or negative test. ANM-PCR panels are effective, affordable, and rapid ancillary tools in evaluating cause of death in the forensic pediatric population.

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