How is post-mortem microbiology appraised by pathologists? Results from a practice survey conducted by ESGFOR

  • V. Saegeman
  • M. C. Cohen
  • J. Alberola
  • N. Ziyade
  • C. Farina
  • ESCMID Study Group for Forensic and Postmortem Microbiology
  • G. Cornaglia
  • A. Fernández-Rodríguez
Original Article


Post-mortem microbiology (PMM) is an important tool in forensic pathology, assisting to determine the cause and manner of death. However, there is a lack of standardisation of PMM sampling. In order to get a better insight into the methods used, the available technical options and developmental needs, ESCMID Study Group for Forensic and Postmortem Microbiology (ESGFOR) members designed a survey aimed at pathologists regarding common practices of PMM in clinical and forensic autopsies. Multiple choice questions were developed based on Cumulative Techniques and Procedures in Clinical Microbiology (Cumitech). The questionnaire was sent to pathologists mainly across Europe and Turkey using SurveyMonkey. The survey had 147 respondents. Although all pathologists were aware of the existence of PMM, 39% (19/49) of the participants were not using it. The three main indications for PMM were: (i) clinical suspicion of an infection not confirmed antemortem (83%), (ii) infectious signs at autopsy (83%) and (iii) as part of a standard protocol for foetal/perinatal or paediatric death (67%). Almost 80% of the participants using PMM stated taking 1–10 samples per case. Of the requested examinations, a general bacteriological culture (96%) and a specific polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay for a particular infectious agent (34%) were most popular. The most frequent samples were: heart blood (66%), peripheral femoral blood (49%), spleen (64%) and lung (56%). Eighty-nine percent of the participants considered PMM a useful resource when investigating the cause of death. Although there are some common uses, this survey indicates that there is a need for improvement towards standardising sampling procedures in PMM.


United Arab Emirate Clinical Microbiology Microbiological Analysis Forensic Pathologist Blood Culture Bottle 
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We are very grateful to all the forensic and clinical pathologists who participated in the survey. This survey was presented as an ePoster at the 26th European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ECCMID), Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 9–12 April 2016 (EV-0611).

Compliance with ethical standards


There was no funding received for this survey or for the writing of the manuscript.

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflict of interest to report.

Ethical approval

Ethical approval was not required for this survey, no patient data have been used. Accordingly, no informed consent forms were used.

Supplementary material

10096_2017_2943_MOESM1_ESM.docx (787 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 786 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • V. Saegeman
    • 1
    • 2
  • M. C. Cohen
    • 3
  • J. Alberola
    • 4
  • N. Ziyade
    • 5
  • C. Farina
    • 6
  • ESCMID Study Group for Forensic and Postmortem Microbiology
  • G. Cornaglia
    • 7
  • A. Fernández-Rodríguez
    • 8
  1. 1.Department of Microbiology and ImmunologyK.U. LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  2. 2.Laboratory MedicineUniversity Hospitals LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  3. 3.Histopathology DepartmentSheffield Children’s NHS Foundation TrustSheffieldUK
  4. 4.Microbiology ServiceUniversity Hospital Dr. Peset Valencia, School of Medicine, University of ValenciaValenciaSpain
  5. 5.Postmortem Mikrobiyoloji LaboratuvarıAdalet Bakanlığı Adli Tıp KurumuBahçelievler/İstanbulTurkey
  6. 6.Microbiology InstituteASST Papa Giovanni XXIIIBergamoItaly
  7. 7.Department of Diagnostics and Public HealthUniversity of VeronaVeronaItaly
  8. 8.Microbiology Laboratory, Biology DepartmentInstituto Nacional de Toxicología y Ciencias ForensesMadridSpain

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