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

J Forensic Sci. 2017 Sep;62(5):1223-1228. doi: 10.1111/1556-4029.13415. Epub 2017 Jan 25.


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.

Keywords: adenovirus; enterovirus; forensic science; influenza; multiplex polymerase chain reaction; nested polymerase chain reaction; pediatrics; respiratory infection; respiratory syncytial virus; rhinovirus.

MeSH terms

  • Adenoviridae / genetics
  • Adenoviridae / isolation & purification
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Coronavirus / genetics
  • Coronavirus / isolation & purification
  • DNA, Viral / genetics*
  • Enterovirus / genetics
  • Enterovirus / isolation & purification
  • Female
  • Forensic Pathology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Multiplex Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods*
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus, Human / genetics
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus, Human / isolation & purification
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / virology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Rhinovirus / genetics
  • Rhinovirus / isolation & purification


  • DNA, Viral