Investigation of sterols as potential biomarkers for the detection of pig (S. s. domesticus) decomposition fluid in soils

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Journal Article
Forensic Science International, 2013, 230 (1-3), pp. 68 - 73
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This study was carried out to evaluate the potential of using cholesterol and coprostanol, as indicators for the detection of decomposition fluid of buried pigs (S. s. domesticus) in soils. In May 2007, four pig carcasses (~35. kg) were buried in shallow graves (~40. cm depth) at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Canada. Two pigs were exhumed after three months (Pig 1, Pig 2) and six months (Pig 3, Pig 4) post burial. Soil samples were collected beneath the pig carcasses (~40. cm depth) and from grave walls (~15-20. cm depth) as well as from a parallel control site. Coprostanol and cholesterol were extracted from soils, purified with solid phase extraction (SPE) and analysed with gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS). A significant increase in cholesterol concentrations (p<. 0.05) and amounts of coprostanol were detected in soil located beneath the pig carcasses after three months of burial. It is assumed that during the putrefaction and liquefaction stages of decomposition pig fluid which contains cholesterol and coprostanol is released into the underlying soil. Therefore, cholesterol and coprostanol could be used as potential biomarkers to detect the presence of decomposition fluid three months after burial under comparable soil and environmental conditions. Further research is suggested for additional soil sampling before and after three months to investigate the abundance of these and other sterols. © 2013 Elsevier Ireland Ltd.
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