World-first research, based in New Zealand, may eventually help pinpoint more accurately the time of death in forensic cases.
Dr Rachel Parkinson, a new graduate from Victoria University, has been using pig carcasses to find out more about human decomposition, which is not well understood.
She gauged how bacteria relates to decomposition and found bacteria on the body itself, as well as from the surrounding environment, contributed to the process.
Dr Parkinson says different bacteria were found at different stages of decomposition.
More research must be carried out on whether the technique can be validated in different environments, she says, and it would have to be well tested before being used in court.