Mozart may have died from strep infection

By Tom Nordlie • Published: November 12th, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Classical composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart [WOLF-gang ah-muh-DAY-uss MOTE-zart] wrote some of the world’s most enduring music.

And his death in December 1791 left one of music’s most enduring mysteries.

Mozart was only thirty-five when he died, in Vienna, Austria. In seemingly fine health, he suddenly took ill in late November and expired within two weeks.

In the two-hundred years that followed, theories about his death have suggested everything from poisoning to syphilis to trichinosis.

A study published recently in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine takes a new approach, and suggests a different conclusion.

Researchers examined historic records from Vienna and noted that an unusually large number of young men died from apparent Streptococcal [strepp-tuh-COCK-uss] infections in late 1791 and early 1792.

Many of the victims were soldiers, victims of a minor epidemic that centered on a military hospital.

The researchers noted that fatal strep infections can account for the symptoms witnesses reported seeing in Mozart’s final days… he was feverish and in pain, his body grossly swollen, but he was conscious and lucid.

Understandably, the researchers cautioned that their hypothesis was subject to many uncertainties.

Some of the reasons… medicine was fairly primitive in 1791, eyewitness accounts of Mozart’s condition occasionally conflict, and Viennese records of the period often contain imprecise cause-of-death information.

Perhaps the truth will never be known.

But this new study provides a lesson: Strep infections can be serious.

So if a sore throat’s been bothering you, see a doctor.

Because when it comes down to it, most of us prefer the strains of a sonata over a requiem.