Science & Tech

Mummified ancestor of Boris Johnson did not have an STI

Mummified ancestor of Boris Johnson did not have an STI
'Sir Crasheroonie Snoozefest': Boris Johnson predicts Tories 'can certainly' win next election

In news that will surely come as a relief to everyone, Boris Johnson's great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother didn't have an STI.

The body of Anna Catharina Bischoff, who died in 1787, was uncovered in Switzerland in 1975 during renovations on Basel’s Barfusser Church.

Her corpse had been preserved in a mummified state because she had taken mercury before her death, which experts have assumed was to treat syphilis.

But new scans of her body have shown high levels of an unknown bacterial species in the brain tissue samples, suggesting that was the actual cause of death, and no sign of syphilis.

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Researchers working for the journal BMC Biology now believe that Anna Catharina may have been misdiagnosed with syphilis and treated with mercury, with lethal results.

“Mercury was already widely used for treating skin diseases in Arabic medicine, and then was brought to Europe to treat infections in general, including syphilis,” said Dr Mohamed Sarham, of the Institute for Mummy Studies at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy.

“It was used back then as pills and ointment, and also as vapour for inhalation. Mercury in general is poisonous to humans regardless of the health status of the treated person. It does not have an immediate poisoning effect but rather with the long-term exposure and accumulation in the body, in addition to the affected organ.”

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