Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/2440/60937
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Type: Journal article
Title: Bacterial deposition of gold on hair: Archeological, forensic and toxicological implications
Author: Phillips, G.
Reith, F.
Qualls, C.
Ali, A.
Spilde, M.
Appenzeller, O.
Citation: PLoS One, 2010; 5(2):1-7
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Issue Date: 2010
ISSN: 1932-6203
1932-6203
Statement of
Responsibility: 
Genevieve Phillips, Frank Reith, Clifford Qualls, Abdul-Mehdi Ali, Mike Spilde and Otto Appenzeller
Abstract: Trace metal analyses in hair are used in archeological, forensic and toxicological investigations as proxies for metabolic processes. We show metallophilic bacteria mediating the deposition of gold (Au), used as tracer for microbial activity in hair post mortem after burial, affecting results of such analyses. Methodology/Principal Findings Human hair was incubated for up to six months in auriferous soils, in natural soil columns (Experiment 1), soils amended with mobile Au(III)-complexes (Experiment 2) and the Au-precipitating bacterium Cupriavidus metallidurans (Experiment 3), in peptone-meat-extract (PME) medium in a culture of C. metallidurans amended with Au(III)-complexes (Experiment 4), and in non-auriferous soil (Experiment 5). Hair samples were analyzed using scanning electron microscopy, confocal microscopy and inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry. In Experiments 1–4 the Au content increased with time (P = 0.038). The largest increase was observed in Experiment 4 vs. Experiment 1 (mean = 1188 vs. 161 µg Kg−1, Fisher's least significance 0.001). The sulfur content, a proxy for hair metabolism, remained unchanged. Notably, the ratios of Au-to-S increased with time (linear trend P = 0.02) and with added Au and bacteria (linear trend, P = 0.005), demonstrating that larger populations of Au-precipitating bacteria and increased availability of Au increased the deposition of Au on the hair. Conclusion/Significance Interactions of soil biota with hair post mortem may distort results of hair analyses, implying that metal content, microbial activities and the duration of burial must be considered in the interpretation of results of archeological, forensic and toxicological hair analyses, which have hitherto been proxies for pre-mortem metabolic processes
Keywords: Hair; Humans; Bacteria; Postmortem Changes; Gold; Soil; Microscopy, Confocal; Microscopy, Electron, Scanning; Spectrometry, X-Ray Emission; Soil Microbiology; Forensic Pathology; Archaeology; Mass Spectrometry; Cupriavidus; Ecotoxicology
Rights: © 2010 Phillips et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
RMID: 0020095397
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0009335
Appears in Collections:Earth and Environmental Sciences publications
Environment Institute publications

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