Massive colonization of human remains by the microscopic fungus Scopulariopsis brevicaulis Bainier

Misericordia Calduch, Josep Girbal, Ignasi Galtés, Assumpció Malgosa, María Ángeles Gallego, Alberto Miguel Stchigel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearch

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

© 2018 Elsevier Ltd A filamentous microscopic fungus, Scopulariopsis brevicaulis Bainier, was found colonizing the surface of human remains discovered in particular environmental conditions. Different physiological tests were carried out in order to assess which of the environmental parameters promoted the proliferation of fungus on the corpse, as well as to understand the biological processes that occurred during the cadaver decomposition. The results showed that the fungal strain displayed a strong proteolytic activity, which helped the fungus to colonize the skin of the corpse, in accordance with the growing assays on chicken and pork skin, on which the fungus grows successfully and rapidly. The fungus also grew well in an atmosphere that was poor in O2 and rich in CO2, and in the presence of a high amount of NH4+ at alkaline pH, conditions that are commonly found during the putrefaction of remains. All these results, together with the low frequency of S. brevicaulis propagules in the air, allowed us to make another assumption: that the fungus S. brevicaulis was present in the surroundings of the individual before his death, which probably then infected the skin or other anatomical areas, and the effects of the death (the production of gases from gasoline combustion, the isolation of the remains, which reduces dramatically their exposure to environmental biotic and abiotic factors that could have led to faster deterioration) facilitated significantly the spread of the fungus over the surface of the individual.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)90-95
JournalInternational Biodeterioration and Biodegradation
Volume135
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2018

Keywords

  • Ascomycota
  • Fungi
  • Human remains
  • Mummification
  • Scopulariopsis

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