One finger, the evidence of malaria that ended the life of the emperor

The analysis of the little finger of Emperor Carlos V has revealed that he died as a result of that disease

One of the great enigmas of history – the death of Emperor Charles V – was revealed not many years ago thanks to the expertise and insistence of doctor Julián de Zulueta. Because, contrary to what is often thought, the emperor did not die as a result of gout, but of malaria.

Julián de Zulueta, son of a minister of Manuel Azaña, was a medical specialist in tropical diseases who first worked for the Rockefeller Foundation and later for the World Health Organization (WHO). As an epidemiologist, he led several campaigns against malaria in countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and America. Even the dayak of Borneo referred to him as Tuan Nyamok, that is, the Lord of the Mosquitoes in the local language.

Once retired, and despite becoming mayor of Ronda, he remained linked to the investigation, and more specifically to unravel the secret of the death of a mummy that kept his beard and eyes wide open, to which a militiaman hugged in 1936; image published in a French newspaper and that caught his attention forever. Mummy that Zulueta related to the remains of Emperor Charles V.

Interpretation Center for Malaria.

The last phalanx of the Emperor’s little finger

After numerous avatars, Zulueta got access to the last phalanx of the Emperor’s little finger, which is preserved inside a small urn of the monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial; and thanks to the help of Pedro Alonso, another of the great Spanish scientists dedicated to the fight against malaria, he was able to study the referred phalanx.

The study confirmed, in effect, that Charles V suffered terrible pain as a result of gout; also, that he died due to malaria, a disease caused by the Plasmodium falciparum parasite, and that each year affects about 215 million people worldwide.

And to learn more about this disease and its development and incidence, we invite you to visit the Interpretation Center that Losar de la Vera dedicates. The visit is totally recommended!

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