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Historic medical conference finds Bolivar may have been poisoned
Date:4/28/2010

sness. Arsenic was actually a common medical remedy of the time. In fact, it has recently been discovered that a contemporary leader of Bolivar's, George III, had super-high levels of arsenic in his body tissue and air. It seems he had been treating himself with it."

While the possibility of an assassination certainly adds intrigue to Bolivar's story, "It's unlikely this was acute poisoning," Dr. Auwaerter explains. "What I'm finding is more consistent with chronic poisoning because of symptoms such as his skin darkening, his headaches, his extreme weight loss. His whole body is really falling apart at the end. He lived for quite some time like this. I believe it's likely he would have succumbed to tuberculosis much earlier than he did. The idea of gradual arsenic poisoning is a good explanation to link all these symptoms together."

Dr. Auwaerter began his search by considering the nature of the illness that ultimately led to Bolivar's demise. For the last two weeks of his life, he was emaciated and weak and coughed constantly, producing large amounts of green sputum. The autopsy found signs of green fluid in the lungs and in the heart. Bolivar's doctors concluded he died of tuberculosis because of the respiratory aspect of this final illness.

"This was an era where there was really no ability to confirm that someone had died of tuberculosis," Dr. Auwaerter says. "That green fluid in the lungs and heart is very suggestive of a bacterial infection called bronchiecstasis, which was very common at the time. The green pericardial fluid is very unlikely to represent tuberculosis."

Bolivar also appeared to have had a tumor in his lungs that caused him to be severely hoarse, with a voice so quiet he could hardly be heard for the last six months of his life. Lung cancer could be another complication of chronic poisoning, Dr. Auwaerter adds.

"It's very hard to be definitive here," he explains. "I have to say that tuberculosis is not an unr
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Contact: Karen Buckelew
kbuckelew@som.umaryland.edu
410-706-7590
University of Maryland Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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