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What killed Naval hero John Paul Jones?
Date:4/30/2009

aid Jones died of "dropsy of the chest," old medical terminology that may have referred to the accumulation of fluids in the lungs.

Early medical descriptions of Jones refer to severe, cyclical fever, and psychological highs and lows. At 33, he was almost blind, complaining of sore eyes. In one record, Jones told his doctor he felt like an old man. Jones traveled frequently to the West Indies. Dr. Weir says, "All of these fever-related illnesses could have been connected to anything from malaria or dengue fever, to bacteria or viruses. You name it, he had a lot going on as a young man." The naval lifestyle may have contributed to his health problems: poor diet, cramped quarters, poor hygiene onboard ship and/or venereal disease.

By 1789, four years before his death, Jones was in rapid decline. "Poor health led him to turn down most social invitations. He had a poor appetite, yellowing of the skin, swelling of the legs and abdomen, a persistent cough and difficulty breathing," says Dr. Weir.

Medical examiners at the autopsy concluded that Jones died from a type of kidney disease called interstitial nephritis, which is the description of a non-specific, inflammatory process in the kidneys. They also noted scarring in the lungs from pneumonia.

Final diagnosis

Dr. Weir considered a number of possibilities including infections, lead poisoning, autoimmune disorders, and tuberculosis. He then focused on common streptococcal (strep) infections, which can cause both pulmonary and kidney disease. Further, Dr. Weir says a different type of end-stage kidney disease, called glomerulonephritis, is more common than the interstitial variety. Dr. Weir's final diagnosis: "John Paul Jones developed end-stage kidney failure as a result of viral or bacterial infection, which stimulated the development of a form of progressive glomerulonephritis. The interstitial nephritis was the end result of this progressive disease. He also had pn
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Contact: Bill Seiler
bseiler@umm.edu
410-328-8919
University of Maryland Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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