If a person handles many corpses, especially ones which were already buried, they could contract a strange condition where a patient's nailbed begins to generate very weak, brownish nails that slough off with direct pressure into a pasty, crumbly substance that superficially resembles dry clay. It is known that graverobbers will get this condition, as well as cannibals and sometimes gravediggers. The condition is uncurable and sufferers will somtimes resort to burning the tops of thier fingers to cauterize the nail-making area to prevent the useless nails from growing.
Transmission & Vectors
Believed to be caused by a certain fungus which decomposes decaying bodies, although only human ones. The disease cannot be spread to other people as long as the sufferer is still alive. Any sufferers of this disease who die are carefully handled and their body burned, which seems to prevent further spread. Bodies that were buried for a long time do not pose a threat of contamination, as well as those freshly dead. At some point in the midst of the decomposition process, the fungus takes hold and during that time, it is quite risky to touch or move a body in this state barehanded. Gravediggers are trained to identify the approximate time of death without touching the corpse to ascertain wether special measures should be taken in handling it.
The fungus has not yet been identified, as research into this subject is prohibitively hazardous, although some ancient texts make mention of certain drugs which could potentially cure or at least prevent infection of the disease. Bodies buried in humid conditions seem to be more hazardous. The first 72 hours after death a body is relatively safe to handle. After this period, extending to about four months, or until the body is either rotted away or dessicated it is then safe to handle again. Animals such as carrion-eaters are not affected by this.
A darkening of the nails signals the onset of this illness, followed by very brittle nails that eventually get so weak that they simply crumble and fall off, leaving a tender nailbed that heals slowly and continues to produce useless brittle nails thereafter.
Sufferers are soothed by certain balms and preparations designed to numb the hands, although having numb hands is certainly a difficult side effect on its own. Some have found relief by wearing gloves.
It is hypothesized that this condition may be caused by a malignant virus which is spread by fungal spores, that was created initially as a bio-weapon. Ancient texts seem to hint at this disease affecting soldiers of certain armies during prolonged combat in unsanitary conditions.