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Strep Throat May Have Led to Mozart's Death
Date:8/17/2009

and suicide. The list of proposed natural causes is long, including rheumatic fever, an overdose of mercury salts used to treat syphilis, and trichinosis caused by eating improperly heated pork chops, said the new study's co-author, Dr. R.H.C. Zegers, an ophthalmologist at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

Zegers, Steptoe and Andreas Welgl, from the University of Vienna, examined the records on deaths in Vienna during the month of Mozart's death as well deaths the month before and after. They also compared the records with those of other years to see if they could find anything unusual.

They found many deaths attributed to an accumulation of fluids in the body, which Mozart suffered from as he died. The study authors suspect this was caused by strep throat, which in turn might have been spread in a minor epidemic from a nearby military hospital.

Complications could have led to kidney problems, and bloodletting -- a common treatment at the time -- could have caused another infection, Zegers said.

The authors caution, however, that their diagnosis is tentative. Scarlet fever, they say, is an alternative possibility, but less likely.

Zaslaw, the music professor, has also studied Mozart's death, and he said that it's difficult to reach conclusions because of the lack of reliable documents from the time. Still, he said, the new findings "give us the possibility of reinterpreting those documents in a richer, more nuanced context."

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has more on strep throat.



SOURCES: Andrew Steptoe, D.Sc., professor, psychology, and deputy head, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London; R.H.C. Zegers, M.D., Ph.D., ophthalmologist, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands; Neal
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