Salieri Off the Hook? Study Says Mozart May Have Died From Strep Throat

August 18, 2009

(ChattahBox)—Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, died at the age of 35 on December 5, 1791, after an illness that to this day, has become the subject of various conspiracy theories and speculation that he may have been poisoned by his jealous rival, Italian composer Antonio Salieri, or that he succumbed to the effects of rheumatic fever.

But now a new Dutch study, believes Mozart died from complications of strep throat, based on official death records from Vienna, combined with other anecdotal evidence.

Mozart’s death certificate offers little medical information, besides an official cause of death listed, as hitziges Frieselfieber or “heated military fever,” describing a rash on Mozart’s body that resembled millet seeds.

Researchers from the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands conducted the wide-ranging study, by pouring over scores of official Vienna death registers. The researchers found evidence of a “minor epidemic” of strep throat in Vienna at the time, which may have originated from a military hospital.

Head researcher Richard Zegers believes Mozart developed complications from his bout of strep throat that led to a deadly kidney infection, called glomerulonephritis.

“Our findings suggest that Mozart fell victim to an epidemic of strep throat infection that was contracted by many Viennese people in Mozart’s month of death, and that Mozart was one of several persons in that epidemic that developed a deadly kidney complication,” researcher Richard Zegers, of the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, told Reuters Health.

A witness report of the time describes Mozart’s illness as “inflammatory fever,” which was a widely used term for strep throat. In his final days, Mozart’s condition worsened and included symptoms of severe swelling, “malaise,” back pain and a rash, which are consistent with kidney inflammation.

The researchers offer an additional theory that Mozart may have died from scarlet fever, which is also a common complication from strep throat that he suffered from as a child. But Zegers believes the fact that witness accounts describe Mozart developing a rash in the last days of his life, discounts this theory, since a rash typically appears in the early stages of scarlet fever.

This study may now put to rest, the belief that a jealous Antonio Salieri murdered Mozart by poisoning him.

During his short life, Mozart composed over six hundred works, completing the enduring and iconic piece, The Magic Flute during the last year of his life.



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