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Front. Vet. Sci. | doi: 10.3389/fvets.2019.00404

Diagnosis of drowning and the value of the diatom test in Veterinary Forensic Pathology

 Giuseppe Piegari1*,  Davide De Biase1*, Ilaria D'Acquino1, Francesco Prisco1, Raffaele Ilsami1,  Nicola Pozzato2,  Angelo Genovese3 and  Orlando Paciello1*
  • 1Department of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Production, University of Naples Federico II, Italy
  • 2Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie, Italy
  • 3Department of Biology, University of Naples Federico II, Italy

The detection of diatoms into the organs is considered an important “biological marker” for the diagnosis of drowning in human pathology, but it still has a high possibility for false positive results. The aims of this study were: 1) to evaluate the contribution of pathological examination in drowning cases and 2) to investigate the differences in the number and location of diatoms between animals who died in drowning and non-drowning conditions. For these purposes, thirty dead adult dogs were selected for the study and subdivided into 5 groups. The group A comprised 6 cadavers dead for drowning; the group B comprised 6 control animals; the groups C, D and E comprised 6 animals dead for causes other than drowning and subsequently immersed in water for 24, 48 and 72 hours respectively. On each animal, a complet macroscopic and histological examination and diatom test were performed. Diatoms test and quantification were also performed on drowning mediums. Pathological findings of the animals in the group A showed pulmonary congestion, oedema and haemorrages in the lung. However, similar injuries were also observed in control and experimentally submerged cadavers. In contrast, we observed a statistically differences between drowning animals and all experimentally submerged groups and control animals regarding diatom numbers recovered from organ tissue samples (p<0.05). Therefore, these findings suggest that the number of diatoms may be used as a valid tool to differentiate animals who died in drowning and non-drowning conditions, even if the latter were found in an aquatic environment.

Keywords: veterinary forensic pathology, diatom, Diatoms test, Drowning, Forensic Medicine

Received: 18 Jul 2019; Accepted: 29 Oct 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Piegari, De Biase, D'Acquino, Prisco, Ilsami, Pozzato, Genovese and Paciello. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence:
Dr. Giuseppe Piegari, University of Naples Federico II, Department of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Production, Naples, 80138, Campania, Italy, giuseppe.piegari@unina.it
Dr. Davide De Biase, University of Naples Federico II, Department of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Production, Naples, 80138, Campania, Italy, davide.debiase@unina.it
Prof. Orlando Paciello, University of Naples Federico II, Department of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Production, Naples, 80138, Campania, Italy, paciello@unina.it