Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mozart Died of...Strep Throat?

Did you happen to see this article last month? After years of speculation about kidney failure, mercury poisoning from syphilis treatments, fevers, and (my personal favorite) trichinosis caused by consuming undercooked pork chops, a group of researchers believe they have figured out what killed Mozart - strep throat.

We've always known from eye witness accounts that in his final days Mozart's body was so swollen that he couldn't move in bed and that he was covered in rashes and spiking with alarming fevers. What we haven't known was that Vienna that winter was suffering through a rise in streptococcal infections, which can often lead to glomerulonephritis where the kidney's blood vessels are inflamed and the body swells.

So how do you treat strep? With antibiotics like penicillin, which Alexander Fleming discovered in 1928, 137 years too late for Mozart.

The case is logical and is as good a theory as any and I was truly interested to learn about the research. But do I really have to tell my students now that Mozart died of strep? The old jealous Salieri killing Mozart by having him write his own Requiem mass is a much better story.


laura gayle said...

perhaps Salieri was a latent carrier of strep -- threads of truth in it all. ;) Maybe. or not.

Andrew said...

There you go - it wasn't poison that Salieri used, he just breathed on him! I could get behind that story.