A study by the IHU Méditerranée Infection Institute in Marseille and published in the Lancet Infectious magazine, has shown that the painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio he died from an infection and not from syphilis as was previously believed.
Staph got it during a fight in which he was wounded with a sword, which ended his life a few days later in a small town in Tuscany, when the painter I was 39 years old.
The team of researchers discovered the cause of death in the painter's teeth. They carried out an exhaustive analysis of the pulp of his teeth, canines and incisors, where blood vessels abound, with the aim of discovering the real cause of his death.
Michel Drancourt, one of the authors of the study, explained that "this made it possible to detect the microbes contained in the painter's body at the time of his death."
In this sample looked for presence of syphilis, malaria, or brucellosis, some of the diseases that are supposed to have led to Caravaggio's death.
“But all the tests were negative. It was by using broader DNA analysis methods that we began to obtain the clues that have led us to this conclusion ”, adds Didier Raoult, director of this institute specialized in paleomicrobiology.
"We use techniques of the scientific police to solve mysteries of the past," he sums up. In this case, the killer was a golden staph.
Finding Caravaggio's body
However, before testing can be done, it was necessary to find Carvaggio's skeleton, which was found in a Porto Ercole cemetery, at the site where he died while fleeing Naples.
The team led by Giuseppe Cornaglia had to screen the remains found, selecting only those corresponding to men 1.65 meters tall and between 35 and 40 years old.
Nine skeletons resulted from the sieve, but Carbon 14 tests found that only one of them dated from the seventeenth century.
Drancourt added that "A genetic comparison with the inhabitants of Porto Ercole who bear the same surname as Caravaggio [Merisi or Merisio] confirmed that it was, with the highest probability, the painter's skeleton."
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