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Alexander the Great's Death: Guillain-Barre Syndrome

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First the background (from Wikipedia):



On either 10 or 11 June 323 BC, Alexander died in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II, in Babylon, at age 32.[122] There are two different versions of Alexander's death and details of the death differ slightly in each. Plutarch's account is that roughly 14 days before his death, Alexander entertained admiral Nearchus, and spent the night and next day drinking with Medius of Larissa.[123] He developed a fever, which worsened until he was unable to speak. The common soldiers, anxious about his health, were granted the right to file past him as he silently waved at them.[124] In the second account, Diodorus recounts that Alexander was struck with pain after downing a large bowl of unmixed wine in honour of Heracles, followed by 11 days of weakness; he did not develop a fever and died after some agony.[125] Arrian also mentioned this as an alternative, but Plutarch specifically denied this claim.[123]


Several natural causes (diseases) have been suggested, including malaria and typhoid fever. A 1998 article in the New England Journal of Medicine attributed his death to typhoid fever complicated by bowel perforation and ascending paralysis.[138] Another recent analysis suggested pyogenic (infectious) spondylitis or meningitis.[139] Other illnesses fit the symptoms, including acute pancreatitisand West Nile virus.[140][141] Natural-cause theories also tend to emphasize that Alexander's health may have been in general decline after years of heavy drinking and severe wounds. The anguish that Alexander felt after Hephaestion's death may also have contributed to his declining health.[138]





Dr Katherine Hall, of the Dunedin School of Medicine in New Zealand has another suggestion: Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS).




Dr Hall says GBS would explain the fearsome warrior's paralysis, which first took the use of his legs and arms before rendering him unable to speak.

The disease, caused by a bacterial infection in the stomach, does not affect the brain, which matches reports that Alexander was sound of mind through his illness

Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS) is an autoimmune condition that attacks the body's own nervous system. The exact cause is unknown, but is thought to be frequently a result of a body's response to a recent infection.

GBS results in a progressive ascending paralysis, most frequently  beginning in the extremities. With time, this paralysis can ascend and involve the chest, affecting the muscles involved with breathing. Without adequate care (including a respirator to help breathing), GBS can result in death.



His new diagnosis raises the gruesome possibility that Alexander was still alive long after he was pronounced dead.

At the time, doctors didn't use your pulse to check if you were still alive, instead looking for signs you were still breathing.

The paralysis would have gradually restricted Alexander's respiratory muscles until his breaths were so small that doctors couldn't spot the movement of his chest.

Greek scholars later wrote that in the days after his death, Alexander's body didn't decompose, proving the warrior king was a god.

But Dr Hall says this may have been because he was in fact still alive.

She added that Alexander was likely was in a coma by the time preparations for his death began.

"It is very likely [he] was in a deep coma by this stage and would have had no awareness when they began their task," she said



A good quick review of Alexander the Great's death and the subsequent Hellenistic period (from Alexander's death in 323 BCE to the fall of the Ptolemaic Dynasty three centuries later) by Professors Harl and Aldrete.




guy also known as gaius

Edited by guy

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