Effects of peri-mortem infection on the entomofauna of decomposing buried remains - a metadata analysis

Whittington, Andrew E. (2019) Effects of peri-mortem infection on the entomofauna of decomposing buried remains - a metadata analysis. Science & Justice. ISSN 13550306

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The role of infectious disease as a cause of death is undeniable. The affect infectious disease may have on decomposition after death is less well established. Furthermore, virtually no information is available regarding the effects of burial conditions in such circumstances, despite that numerous clandestine burials occur each year. Although many aspects of post-mortem pathology are well understood and provide frequent insight in medicolegal investigation, where buried bodies are concerned, there is great variation in the decomposition processes, depending on extrinsic and intrinsic conditions. Criminal burials and hurriedly dug clandestine graves are seldom deeper than 120 cm allowing access to certain invertebrates, excluding others that only develop in unburied bodies. Numerous studies have reported on such clandestine graves with a purpose to facilitate forensic investigation, but our knowledge of decomposition in deeper graves lags behind, despite several often-cited papers of over a century ago. The poor level of detail in deep-grave knowledge is in part due to resource deficiencies and ethical considerations, but in part due to lack of thorough investigation of the data in papers of often cited prior work. To this end, a metadata analysis assessed a paper written by Dr. Murray Galt Motter in 1898, providing detail of 150 disinterment events with linked medical records from City of Washington cemeteries. This paper, written more than a hundred years ago, was largely descriptive and the detailed data provided in a summary table were never fully analysed. The paper is often quoted despite these obvious oversights. The present study revisits this work, applying a frequency statistical analysis conducted using categorical data and chi-squared analysis. This new analysis reveals patterns and relationships so long ‘locked-up’ within the body of the table and provides greater understanding of the effect of infectious disease on the abundance of species in the entomofauna associated with deeply buried remains. The data confirm that the presence of adipocere (saponification) is detrimental to development of soil entomofauna ((X2 = 6·64, df = 1, p < 0·01)). Some species, in particular Proisotoma sepulcralis (Collembola), Eleusis pallida (Coleoptera) and Conicera tibialis (Diptera), were positively influenced by association with infectious disease cases (p < 0·01) while only Piophila casei (Diptera) demonstrated a negative association (p < 0·05). Furthermore, the presence of peri-mortem infectious disease, while not necessarily a cause of death, influences post-mortem colonisation of the buried body by insects. The abundance of some species is enhanced, suggesting that bacterial burdens enhance decomposition in a manner favourable to insect feeding and hence abundance, by releasing compounds that the entomofauna feeds on.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Article also available through the publisher link provided
Keywords: Peri-mortem infection, Deep-grave burial, Post-mortem interval
Divisions: Health Sciences
Depositing User: Ms Kerry Kellaway
Date Deposited: 07 Dec 2018 15:51
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2020 05:50
URI: https://marjon.repository.guildhe.ac.uk/id/eprint/17276
Related URLs: http://www.scie ... 355030618301692 (Publisher URL)

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