Tag: sickle cell disease

Scientist Smackdown: Did King Tut Die of Malaria or Sickle Cell?

By Eliza Strickland | June 28, 2010 11:43 am

King-TutWhat struck down ancient Egypt’s King Tutankhamen at the tender age of 19?

Just this winter, Egyptian researchers seemed to think they had a definitive answer. After years of genetic tests and CT scans, they concluded that royal incest had produced a sickly boy with a bone disorder, and argued that a malaria-bearing parasite finished him off. But now a team of German researchers is arguing that the observations actually point to death from the inherited blood disorder sickle cell disease (SCD).

People with SCD carry a mutation in the gene for haemoglobin which causes their red blood cells to become rigid and sickle-shaped. A single copy of the sickle-cell gene confers increased immunity to malaria, so it tends to be common in areas where the infection is endemic – such as ancient Egypt. People with two copies of the gene suffer severe anaemia and often die young. [New Scientist]

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Human Origins
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