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Toxic bacteria killed Alexander the Great?

Washington, July 17 (ANI): Scientists are claiming that a deadly bacterium in the The Styx River, the legendary portal to the underworld, may have ended Alexander's life.

An extraordinarily toxic bacterium harboured by the "infernal" Styx River might have been the fabled poison rumoured to have killed Alexander the Great (356 -323 B.C.) more than 2,000 years ago, according to a scientific-meets-mythic detective study.

According to the study, calicheamicin, a secondary metabolite of Micromonospora echinospora, is what gave the river its toxic reputation. It was the Styx where gods swore sacred oaths.

"If they lied, Zeus forced them to drink the water, which struck them down. The 8th-century B.C. Greek poet Hesiod wrote that the gods were unable to move, breathe or speak for one year," Discovery News quoted co-author Adrienne Mayor, a research scholar at Stanford University's Departments of Classics and History of Science, as saying.

The researchers believe this mythic poison must be calicheamicin.

"This is an extremely toxic, gram-positive soil bacterium and has only recently come to the attention of modern science. It was discovered in the 1980s in caliche, crusty deposits of calcium carbonate that form on limestone and is common in Greece," author Antoinette Hayes, toxicologist at Pfizer Research, said.

Whether Alexander really died from poisoning, as some of his closest friends believed, is pure speculation, Mayor and Hayes concede.

"We are not claiming that this was the poison that killed Alexander, nor we are arguing for or against a poison plot," Mayor said.

"However, such a sacred poison, used by the gods, would be appropriate for Alexander, who was already being thought of as semi-divine," she added.

Alexander fell ill at one of many all-night drinking parties in Babylon with abdominal pain and a very high fever - he was pronounced dead on June 11, 323 B.C.

"Notably, some of Alexander's symptoms and course of illness seem to match ancient Greek myths associated with the Styx. He even lost his voice, like the gods who fell into a coma-like state after drinking from the river," Mayor said.

"Cytotoxins cause cell death and induce high fever, chills, and severe muscle and neurological pain. Therefore, this toxin could have caused the fever and pain that Alexander suffered," Hayes said. (ANI)

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Publication:Asian News International
Date:Jul 17, 2010
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