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The antimicrobial capacity of embalming solutions: a comparative study

Balta, J.Y., Cryan, J.F., O'Mahony, S.M.
Journal of applied microbiology 2019 v.126 no.3 pp. 764-770
antimicrobial properties, formalin, human health and safety, microorganisms, risk reduction
AIMS: Infectious health risks are associated with handling human cadavers and to decrease such risks, cadavers are embalmed using different chemicals. The aim of this study is to quantify the amount of micro‐organisms present in different regions of human cadavers before embalming, after embalming and over a period of 8 months. METHODS AND RESULTS: Human cadavers were embalmed using Thiel, formalin, Genelyn and the Imperial College London soft‐preservation (ICL‐SP) solution with two cadavers per technique. Sterile swabs were used to collect samples from different regions. Samples were collected every 2 months. All cadavers had a high number of microbial colonies before embalming. While no colonies were detected on formalin and Genelyn embalmed cadavers post‐embalming, the number of colonies decreased significantly in Thiel‐embalmed cadavers and stayed relatively the same in ICL‐SP–embalmed cadavers. CONCLUSIONS: Formalin‐embalmed cadavers showed the strongest disinfecting abilities followed by Thiel‐embalmed cadavers, then Genelyn‐embalmed cadavers and finally by ICL‐SP cadavers. SIGNIFICANCE AND IMPACT OF THE STUDY: This study highlights how under researched this area is and the evident variation in the antimicrobial abilities of different embalming solutions on the cadaver as a whole and within different regions of the same cadaver.