TB Can Survive in Human Remains for 36 Days

Anatomy and mortuary staff face a risk of contracting infectious disease when exposed to human remains and new research in Clinical Anatomy reveals that Mycobacterium tuberculosi (MTB) can survive within the host up to 36 days after death.

The transfer and handling of a corpse expels air from the lungs, which poses a clear risk for airborne pathogens. To examine this threat, lung tissue samples, both apical and hilar, were obtained from 20 cadavers whose death certificate indicated MTB as cause of death. The first sample was taken before embalming and second set three weeks after embalming.

The tissue analysis results demonstrated that both the apical and the perihilar samples tested positive prior to embalming, 36 days after death. After three weeks post-embalming none tested positive. These results highlight the need for precautionary measures and for standard operating procedures.

The paper, "Assessing the survival of Mycobacterium tuberculosis in unembalmed and embalmed human remains," by J.C. Correia, J.L. Steyl, and H.C. De Villiers, appears in Clinical Anatomy, DOI: 10:1002/ca.22355.

Source: Wiley


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