Mozart may have died from strep throat: study


June 18, 2010 Updated Aug 18, 2009 at 8:11 PM EDT

A Dutch study published Tuesday concludes that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, whose death at 35 has long been the subject of speculation, may have been a victim of complications stemming from strep throat.

Theories about the prolific composer's untimely death have ranged from poisoning to kidney failure to trichinosis, a parasitic disease that comes from eating raw or undercooked pork.

But Richard Zegers of the University of Amsterdam concluded that the legendary composer fell victim to a "minor epidemic" of strep throat infection in Vienna, where Mozart died in December 1791.

Zegers and his colleagues based their study, which was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, on data from death records in the Austrian capital ranging between November 1791 and January 1972.

According to his death certificate, Mozart died from "hitziges Frieselfieber," a kind of fever that is accompanied by a rash.

But the researchers said the diagnosis was more likely a description of symptoms than of a disease.

Witness accounts also said Mozart, who composed more than 600 works during his short life, fell ill of an "inflammatory fever," which the study noted was consistent with strep throat.

He eventually developed severe swelling, cramps, fever and a rash, also consistent with a strep throat infection leading to glomerulonephritis, an acute kidney inflammation.

The swelling was so severe, his sister-in-law Sophie Haibel recalled three decades later, that Mozart could not turn in bed but was conscious and in sound mental condition until his dying breath.

Mozart may also have died from scarlet fever, the researchers said, while noting this was "a less likely possibility."

The illness was short-lived, lasting only two weeks.

The last months of his life were brimming with productivity, and saw Mozart complete the score of the opera "The Magic Flute," conduct its premiere, visit a spa town, compose his clarinet concerto and begin writing his never completed "Requiem."

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