Thursday, 26 February 2015

Church collapse: DNA expert explains how Nigeria bodies were matched to families

Pathologists that conducted DNA testing on the Nigeria building collapse victims, Unistel Medical Laboratories, cannot say with certainty that families received correct bodies.

The firm's managing director, Dr Munro Marx, said they could “only vouch for the tissue sample we received and the match with the family member”.

He explained that each body was allocated a number corresponding with the number on the tissue sample sent to their laboratory at the University of Stellenbosch.

Marx said they then generated DNA profiles from the tissue samples, which were then matched with DNA profiles of family members.

The Mkhulisi family in Germiston is disputing the identity of the body they have received, saying their daughter, Phumzile Mkhulisi,47, had a distinct gap between her front teeth but the body they have had none.

Marx said in this case, the tissue sample matched the DNA profiles of Mkhulisi's two sons and that of her brother.

“We, in this case, communicated with the disaster team that was in Nigeria and they also identified the body using certain physical features. Together with the two, we were able to confirm that, that body, with that number, corresponds with the children therefore that is (Phumzile). But we have no control on whether that body was in the bag that was numbered(according to the tissue sample),” he said.

He however emphasised that it was highly unlikely that there was a mix-up, saying it was ensured that the number on the bag corresponded with documents.

“That I know because we were in constant communication with(the team) during the loading process(on the plane to SA) to make sure that this matches to that,” he said.

Marx said the gap the Mkhulisis are referring to could have been closed as a result of heat compression.

He said discolouring caused by the chemical used to embalm the bodies, Formaldehyde, could be the reason the body appeared to have no skin.

The family, which has been granted permission to conduct tests on the body, vowed to push for the exhumation of all the bodies if the tests were negative.

Of the 116 people who died in the collapse at the Synagogue Church of All Nations building in Lagos in September, 85 were from South Africa.

Wednesday 25 February 2015

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