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Dracula: A Medical Explanation?

Some traits attributed to vampires— sensitivity to light, fangs, pale skin - may actually describe certain illnesses

by David Johnson

Monster Links

Some doctors believe that old peasant tales of aristocratic "vampires" living in nearby castles could be based on medical fact. Some traits attributed to vampires - sensitivity to light, fangs, pale skin - may actually describe certain illnesses.

For example, the hereditary blood disease porphyria was believed to be endemic among the Eastern European aristocracy, which routinely intermarried. Physicians sometimes told patients to drink blood from other people to build up their own.

People with porphyria become extremely sensitive to light, develop skin lesions, and get brown or reddish teeth.

Rabies, which is spread by animals such as wolves or bats, both associated with vampires, may also have been epidemic in Transylvania in Dracula's day. Rabies symptoms include insomnia, delirium, hallucinations, and strange behavior. A treatment includes immune globulin, a protein found in blood.

Information Please® Database, © 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

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