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Identification and Quantification of Phenobarbital in a Mummified Body 10 Years After Death


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Mario Giusiani, Ph.D.
Department of Neurosciences
Section of Forensic Medicine
University of Pisa
Via Roma 57
Pisa 56126


Abstract:  This article reports the determination of phenobarbital in the mummified body of a 56-year-old man found completely mummified 10 years after his death. When alive, he was being treated for epilepsy with phenobarbital, and the recent analyses, performed with both immunochemical techniques and gas chromatography with mass spectrometry (GC-MS), have revealed the presence of this substance in various tissues: the mean content of barbiturate in the mummified liver tissue was 93 μg/g, 216 μg/g in the heart, 17 μg/g in the lungs, 12 μg/g in muscles, and 31 μg/g in the skin. Preliminary screening tests with immunochemical techniques to evaluate the presence of other drugs were also performed. The sample resulted negative for all substances tested. Phenobarbital can be identified and quantified thanks to its excellent chemical stability and a hypothesis of what the concentrations in the fresh tissue could have been has also been reported.