Reuters - Video

EDITION: U.S. | U.K. | IN

Environment

Mexican maggots help ID the dead

Monday, Dec 17, 2012 - 02:14

Dec. 17 - Maggots found feeding on bodies burned or mutilated beyond recognition, may hold the answers to identifying the dead. Scientists in Mexico say a DNA examination of contents inside three maggots found on a badly burned body led to its identification, when the flesh itself was too badly decomposed to reveal useful samples. Kilmeny Duchardt reports.

▲ Hide Transcript

View Transcript

Nuevo Leon in northern Mexico is on the frontline of the country's unrelenting drug war. Thousands of people have been killed, many of them decapitated and burned beyond recognition. For forensic scientists, identifying the dead is often impossible, as burned flesh yields no DNA for analysis. But earlier this year, scientists led by Dr Lourdes Chaves at the Autonomous University of Nuevo Leon scored a victory. They were able to identify a missing woman by examining the DNA of content s inside maggots that had consumed the few tiny morsels of viable flesh left on her charred body. SOUNDBITE: DR. LOURDES CHAVEZ, HEAD OF THE FORENSIC SERVICES DEPARTMENT, AUTONOMOUS UNIVERSITY OF NUEVO LEON, SAYING: "Once the maggots are deposited in the cadaver, they begin to feed themselves. With that in mind, we decided to collect the maggots dissect them, and remove the contents of the digestive system. Inside the gastrointestinal tract, we can find the material that has been consumed from the decomposing corpse. It was really a surprise to be able to magnify and analyze the contents at that stage." With that success, the researchers beleive they have found a new investiagtive tool. DNA is also extracted from bones, but it's a much longer process. SOUNDBITE: DR. LOURDES CHAVEZ, HEAD OF THE FORENSIC SERVICES DEPARTMENT, AUTONOMOUS UNIVERSITY OF NUEVO LEON, SAYING: "With this, we'd save a lot of time by utilizing the maggots. In any case, we will still examine the bones to make sure our analysis of the body is correct. It is another option." And it's a valuable option for crime fighters like Jorge Domene, in a place where the body count frequently overwhelms resources. SOUNDBITE: JORGE DOMENE, NUEVO LEON PUBLIC SECURITY SPOKESMAN, SAYING: "We are at a point today in which we are prepared, which happens to coincide, in a way which was not planned, with the index of violence we have had over the last two years. This has helped solve important cases that otherwise would have been practically or literally impossible to identify the victim." And without a victim I.D, it's impossible to prosecute a murder case. In Mexico, the maggot is gaining a new measure of respect.

Mexican maggots help ID the dead

Monday, Dec 17, 2012 - 02:14

Money »

S&P 500 just shy of record S&P 500 just shy of record

5:35pm EDT - (2:23)

Apple hits $100 a share Apple hits $100 a share

Tue, Aug 19, 2014 - (2:06)

Nasdaq closes at 14-year high Nasdaq closes at 14-year high

Mon, Aug 18, 2014 - (2:23)

Putin puts Wall Street in buying mood Putin puts Wall Street in buying mood

Thu, Aug 14, 2014 - (2:10)

We've become a promotional culture-RetailMeNot's Bodge We've become a promotional...

Thu, Aug 14, 2014 - (4:39)

Dow back to positive territory for year Dow back to positive territory for year

Wed, Aug 13, 2014 - (2:18)

Markets cheer Russia's Ukraine exit Markets cheer Russia's Ukraine exit

Fri, Aug 08, 2014 - (1:50)

Russia, Iraq push Dow to three-month low Russia, Iraq push Dow to three-month low

Thu, Aug 07, 2014 - (2:27)

Wall Street gains but telecom disconnected Wall Street gains but telecom disconnected

Wed, Aug 06, 2014 - (2:28)

Stocks zapped by energy weakness Stocks zapped by energy weakness

Tue, Aug 05, 2014 - (2:46)

Stocks recover with refocus on earnings Stocks recover with refocus on earnings

Mon, Aug 04, 2014 - (2:19)

The Exchange »

The Exchange: Hot commodity The Exchange: Hot commodity

Wed, Jul 16, 2014 - (9:25)

The Exchange: Constitutional crusade The Exchange: Constitutional crusade

Wed, Jun 25, 2014 - (11:35)

The Exchange: The value of money The Exchange: The value of money

Mon, Jun 02, 2014 - (9:53)

The Exchange: China’s Second Continent The Exchange: China’s Second Continent

Tue, May 27, 2014 - (9:35)

The Exchange: A master of business arts The Exchange: A master of business arts

Thu, May 08, 2014 - (8:24)

The Exchange: America's bankrupt cities The Exchange: America's bankrupt cities

Mon, May 05, 2014 - (8:52)

The Exchange: Let the rocking commence The Exchange: Let the rocking commence

Tue, Apr 08, 2014 - (8:13)

The Exchange: The Moneyball fallacies The Exchange: The Moneyball fallacies

Mon, Mar 24, 2014 - (9:54)

Is doing good a good business? Is doing good a good business?

Mon, Mar 17, 2014 - (7:38)

Reuters Investigates »

Re-homing victim: "I could have been dead" Re-homing victim: "I could have been dead"

Wed, Feb 19, 2014 - (8:24)

Cops and loggers in the Amazon rainforest Cops and loggers in the Amazon rainforest

Fri, Jan 10, 2014 - (4:01)

"Passed around like a dog" "Passed around like a dog"

Thu, Aug 29, 2013 - (6:32)

Adopted, then abandoned online Adopted, then abandoned online

Thu, Aug 29, 2013 - (13:21)

How the DEA keeps its secrets secret How the DEA keeps its secrets secret

Mon, Aug 05, 2013 - (1:36)

How education lost its role as the great equalizer - Reuters Investigates How education lost its role as the great...

Mon, Dec 17, 2012 - (7:52)

Jihad Jane: From abused child to American jihadist - Reuters Investigates Jihad Jane: From abused child to American...

Sat, Dec 08, 2012 - (10:01)

Jihad Jane: The order to kill - Reuters Investigates Jihad Jane: The order to kill - Reuters...

Sun, Dec 09, 2012 - (10:39)

Moving Pictures »

"Old timers" sail the Chesapeake Bay "Old timers" sail the Chesapeake Bay

Mon, Aug 11, 2014 - (2:27)

Burned memories Burned memories

Fri, Aug 08, 2014 - (3:02)

Images of July Images of July

Thu, Jul 31, 2014 - (1:20)

World Cup: passion on the pitch World Cup: passion on the pitch

Fri, Jul 11, 2014 - (1:00)

A refugee in America gives back A refugee in America gives back

Wed, Jul 02, 2014 - (3:25)

A long search for refuge A long search for refuge

Fri, Jun 20, 2014 - (3:04)

World Cup: Around the globe in 50 goals World Cup: Around the globe in 50 goals

Fri, Jun 06, 2014 - (1:08)

VIVID – Sydney’s spectacle of light VIVID – Sydney’s spectacle of light

Fri, May 30, 2014 - (1:37)

The week that changed Boston The week that changed Boston

Mon, Apr 14, 2014 - (3:28)