Created: Wednesday, 06 March 2002 Written by Hymie
King Herod the Great, the bloody ruler of ancient Judea, died from a combination of chronic kidney disease and a rare infection that causes gangrene of the genitalia, according to a new analysis of historical records. "The texts that we depend on for a close description of Herod's last days list several major features of the disease that caused his death - among then, intense itching, painful intestinal problems, breathlessness, convulsions of every limb, and gangrene of the genitalia," says Jan Hirschmann, professor of medicine at the University of Washington, in Seattle.
It had been suggested that complications of gonorrhoea caused Herod's death in 4BC, at the age of 69. But a systematic analysis of reported symptoms suggests otherwise, Hirschmann says.
He found that chronic kidney disease accounted for nearly all the features of Herod's illness - except the genital gangrene. "I finally concluded that the most likely explanation was that his chronic kidney disease was complicated by an unusual infection of the male genitalia called Fournier's gangrene," Hirschmann says.
Brutal and ruthless
Only about 500 cases of Fournier's gangrene have been recorded in the medical literature. It is caused when Staphylococcus, Streptococcus or E. coli bacteria infects and starts to rapidly kill cells, turning tissue black.
Historical texts record Herod's 36-year reign as brutal and ruthless. He had three of his sons murdered, and according to the Bible, ordered the slaughter of all boys in Bethlehem aged under two, in an attempt to kill the infant Jesus.
(Bulk of Article by E Young, newscientist.com)