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Strep throat may have killed Mozart

Aug. 18, 2009 at 6:37 PM   |   Comments

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands, Aug. 18 (UPI) -- British and European researchers say Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart likely died from a strep throat epidemic that appeared to have occurred in Vienna in 1791.

Many theories, including mercury poisoning, syphilis, trichinosis and other conditions, have been suggested over the years as the cause of Mozart's death but an epidemiological analysis published in the Aug. 18 issue of The Annals of Internal Medicine says the young composer was likely a victim of an epidemic streptococcal infection, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Lead author Dr. Richard H. C. Zegers of the University of Amsterdam said researchers looked at what people were dying from in Vienna around the time of Mozart's death.

In addition to edema, Mozart had back pain, a rash and other symptoms of streptococcal infection. Streptococcus can lead to glomerulonephritis, a kidney disease that would explain the swelling, the report said.

Zegers said deaths from edema were markedly increased among younger men in the weeks surrounding Mozart's death. The report said the minor epidemic may have originated in the military hospital.

"Our analysis is consistent with Mozart's last illness and death being due to a streptococcal infection leading to an acute nephritic syndrome caused by poststreptococcal glomerulonephritis," researchers said in a summary published by The Annals of Internal Medicine. "Scarlet fever, which represents the same underlying disease from an etiologic perspective, is a less likely possibility."

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