The infection hazards of human cadavers

Commun Dis Rep CDR Rev. 1995 Apr 28;5(5):R61-8.


Cadavers may pose infection hazards to people who handle them. None of the organisms that caused mass death in the past--for example, plague, cholera, typhoid, tuberculosis, anthrax, smallpox--is likely to survive long in buried human remains. Items such as mould spores or lead dust are much greater risks to those involved in exhumations. Infectious conditions and pathogens in the recently deceased that present particular risks include tuberculosis, group A streptococcal infection, gastrointestinal organisms, the agents that cause transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease), hepatitis B and C viruses, HIV, and possibly meningitis and septicaemia (especially meningococcal). The use of appropriate protective clothing and the observance of Control of Substances Hazardous to Health regulations, will protect all who handle cadavers against infectious hazards.

MeSH terms

  • Autopsy
  • Cadaver*
  • Communicable Diseases / transmission*
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Humans
  • Mortuary Practice
  • Occupational Diseases*
  • Risk Factors