The child abuse pediatrician with whom I consulted told me she thought the abuse would be confirmed if father tested positive for the same strain of the bacteria. I was only handling the child custody part of the case, not any criminal charges that may have resulted. My involvement ended quickly when the mother agreed to keep the father away from their daughter while the cases were pending.
I was reminded about it today when the headline Biomarker Diagnoses Deadly Infant Disease appeared in my inbox from the Breaking Science News email from Technology Networks. The article mentioned in the subject line was about "A diagnostic study of 136 premature infants [that] found that a protein involved in managing harmful bacteria in the human intestine is a reliable biomarker for the noninvasive detection of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC)."
I haven't had any cases in which NEC was mistaken for child abuse, but a different article at the top of the Top Headlines list caught my attention: Genetic Tools To Explore Zoonotic Chlamydia. A Zoonotic disease is, "an infectious disease that is transmitted between species from animals to humans (or from humans to animals)." www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/animal/zoo/index.html via Google.
Interestingly, the MN article doesn't list chlamydia. But the www.technologynetworks.com write up of the Molecular Infection Medicine Sweden article Targeted Gene Modification in Animal Pathogenic Chlamydia says:
Not knowing to question whether the pediatrician's assertion that father and daughter having the same strain of a pathogen was proof that father transmitted it to daughter, I didn't even inquire if they had any pets or handled farm animals. Similarly, until Attorney Randy Gioia brought a couple of Evidence Based Medicine physicians to speak at the Massachusetts Juvenile Bar Association annual conference a decade ago, I didn't think that there might be scientific evidence to rebut presumptions of causation tendered by the medical witnesses the state had proferred.The human pathogenic bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis is the most common sexually transmitted bacterial pathogen worldwide. It is estimated to infect more than 100 million people each year and is a frequent cause of infertility. Moreover, Chlamydia trachomatis also causes eye infections and represents the most frequent infectious cause of blindness in developing areas of the world.Less widely known is that Chlamydia affects not only humans, but also animals. By causing disease in farm animals, such as in cows, sheep, pigs and chicken, Chlamydia can cause significant economic damage. Moreover, Chlamydia also infects pet animals, such as cats, guinea pigs, and parrots. While the Chlamydia species that infect animals are biologically different from the human pathogen Chlamydia trachomatis, some animal pathogenic Chlamydia can occasionally also infect humans. These zoonotic infections in which the bacteria are transmitted from an infected animal to a human can be severe and life-threatening.
Practice note for lawyers: Listen to your clients. Do scientific as well as legal research. Don't easily write off pleas of "But I didn't do anything like that to my child."
Practice note for accused parents: Do scientific research. Insist that your attorney does so as well. Make it easier for them to find the articles, experts, and lawyers who have gone before them and found innocent explanations for conditions that the state has said couldn't have caused the conditions your child exhibited and you know you didn't cause.