Identification of human remains from the Second World War mass graves uncovered in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Damir Marjanović, Negra Hadžić Metjahić, Jasmina Cakar, Mirela Džehverović, Serkan Dogan, Elma Ferić, Snježana Džijan, Vedrana Skaro, Petar Projić, Tomislav Madžar, Eduard Rod, Dragan Primorac

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20 Scopus citations


Aim To present the results obtained in the identification of human remains from World War II found in two mass graves in Ljubuški, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Methods Samples from 10 skeletal remains were collected. Teeth and femoral fragments were collected from 9 skeletons and only a femoral fragment from 1 skeleton. DNA was isolated from bone and teeth samples using an optimized phenol/chloroform DNA extraction procedure. All samples required a pre-extraction decalcification with EDTA and additional post-extraction DNA purification using filter columns. Additionally, DNA from 12 reference samples (buccal swabs from potential living relatives) was extracted using the Qiagen DNA extraction method. Quantifiler™ Human DNA Quantification Kit was used for DNA quantification. PowerPlex ESI kit was used to simultaneously amplify 15 autosomal short tandem repeat (STR) loci, and PowerPlex Y23 was used to amplify 23 Y chromosomal STR loci. Matching probabilities were estimated using a standard statistical approach. Results A total of 10 samples were processed, 9 teeth and 1 femoral fragment. Nine of 10 samples were profiled using autosomal STR loci, which resulted in useful DNA profiles for 9 skeletal remains. A comparison of established victims' profiles against a reference sample database yielded 6 positive identifications. Conclusion DNA analysis may efficiently contribute to the identification of remains even seven decades after the end of the World War II. The significant percentage of positively identified remains (60%), even when the number of the examined possible living relatives was relatively small (only 12), proved the importance of cooperation with the members of the local community, who helped to identify the closest missing persons' relatives and collect referent samples from them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)257-262
Number of pages6
JournalCroatian Medical Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine(all)


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