Mozart Died of Strep

News Brief: Sept. 2009

After centuries of speculation, Dutch researchers have produced evidence that appears to establish the true cause of the death of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

The cause of death was edema, or acute swelling as a result of excess water retention, caused by a streptococcus infection that was rampant in Vienna at the time.

Following a thorough examination of all recorded deaths in the Habsburg capital during the years 1790-93, professor Dr. Richard H.C. Zegers and his team discovered that streptococci, among tuberculosis and malnutrition, were among the most common causes of death of young men. These findings, published in August issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, Vol. 151 No. 4, are consistent with eyewitness accounts of the 35-year old musician’s condition, which report that in his last days he was so swollen he was unable to turn over without help.

Former diagnoses had suggested that he had died of severe military fever, inflammatory rheumatic fever – or even that he had been poisoned by his colleague and alleged rival Antonio Salieri, the premise for the award-winning stage play Amadeus, by Peter Schaefer, and the Academy Award winning film version directed by Milos Forman.

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