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June 23 2010

King Tutankhamun’s Family and Demise

JAMA. 2010;303(24):2471-2475. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.822

To the Editor: Dr Hawass and colleagues1 suggested Plasmodium falciparum malaria in conjunction with Köhler disease II as a possible cause of death for Tutankhamun. Falciparum malaria was endemic in ancient Egypt. Although detection of plasmodial MSP1, STEVOR, and AMA1 gene fragments in the mummy may prove presence of P falciparum, we are not convinced that the disease pattern suggested by the authors was the primary cause of Tutankhamun's early death. In endemic areas, malaria is a life-threatening disease commonly affecting children until the age of 6 to 9 years, not semi-immune adults of 18 to 19 years,2 the age that Tutankhamun apparently reached.

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