Autopsy Q&A by Dr. Stöppler

I have heard of something called cadaver wart. Can someone actually develop a wart from touching a corpse?

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Söppler, MD
Medical Editor: Dennis Lee, MD

Answer:

No, the term cadaver wart does not refer to an actual wart (a raised lesion on the skin caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection). Rather, cadaver wart is a term that has been used to refer to a raised, wartlike growth on the hand due to tuberculosis, typically occurring in pathologists or laboratory workers who have been involved with postmortem examinations (autopsies), or processing of surgically removed tissue from a person infected with tuberculosis.

A cadaver with unsuspected tuberculosis was once a major hazard for pathologists and others in the autopsy room. Since the bacteria that cause tuberculosis do not penetrate intact skin, an accidental cut or other trauma to the skin while performing an autopsy on a person who had tuberculosis can lead to direct inoculation of the skin with the infectious agent, resulting in the lesion known as cadaver wart.

A cadaver wart is known by a number of other names including anatomical tubercle, anatomical wart, dissection tubercle, necrogenic wart, postmortem tubercle, prosector's tubercle, prosector's wart, tuberculosis cutis verrucosa, and verruca necrogenica.

Thank you for your question.


Last Editorial Review: 12/4/2006



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