It has always been a mystery to historians what diseases could have plagued the ruthless ruler Vlad III Tepes, known as Count Dracula. An international team of chemists conducted a unique study based on the analysis of proteins and peptides from three letters written by the Count himself. The results of this study open new horizons in understanding the forgotten health of one of the most brutal rulers of Wallachia.
Paper as a witness to history
It seems incredible, but the paper on which Count Dracula wrote can tell us about his health. When a person writes by hand, his skin touches the paper, and various chemical substances and molecules pass from the skin to the surface of the paper. It is these substances that have been the subject of research by scientists.
Using a special technique that does not damage the paper, a team of scientists removed material from Count Dracula’s letters. Then they conducted a mass spectrometric analysis, which allowed them to detect more than 500 peptides, of which 100 were of human origin. These peptides were the key to unlocking the mysteries of Count Dracula’s forgotten health.
The Count’s health secrets
Analyzing the peptides revealed several interesting facts about Vlad III Tepes’ health. Scientists have found evidence of ciliopathy, a genetic disease that disrupts the function of cells and organs. This may explain some of the oddities in the count’s behavior and his cruelty.
The letters also showed signs of inflammatory diseases that could have led to respiratory and skin problems. This may explain his preference for bloody methods of punishment and the horror stories associated with them.
The most surprising discovery is that Count Dracula may have suffered from a rare condition called hemolacria. This is a condition in which blood mixes with fluid in the tear ducts, resulting in tears with an admixture of blood. It was these “bloody” tears that may have been the basis for the legend of vampires and gave rise to the myth of Count Dracula.
Dr. Maria Rossi, professor of biochemistry at the University of Catania and one of the participants in the study, shared: “This unique study allows us to look into the past and better understand the forgotten story of Count Dracula. The results of the analysis of the letters suggest that he may have suffered from several serious diseases that probably affected his character and actions.”