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Corpses put mortuary workers at risk for TB: study

Bloemfontein, South Africa – Anatomy and mortuary workers may be in danger of contracting tuberculosis because a certain type of bacteria can remain in dead bodies for up to 36 days, according to a new study from the University of the Free State.

To determine the viability of the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis, researchers analyzed lung tissue samples from 20 dead bodies for which MTB was named as the cause of death. The tissue tested positive for MTB before embalming and 36 days afterward, indicating that the bacteria survives in the lungs weeks after death.

The findings highlight the need for workers who handle human remains to take safety measures and follow procedures aimed at helping avoid infection, researchers concluded.

The study was published online Dec. 17 in the journal Clinical Anatomy.