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Thursday, September 24, 1998 Published at 06:55 GMT 07:55 UK

World: Europe

Rabies - the Vampire's kiss

Dracula: Did the Count have rabies?

Blood-sucking vampires may have their history in disease rather than the supernatural, according to a Spanish neurologist.

Dr Juan Gomez-Alonso has put forward a novel theory to explain the Dracula legend - vampires were suffering from rabies.

[ image: Animal killer: Myth maker?]
Animal killer: Myth maker?
The neurologist hit on the rabid vampire theory after watching a Dracula film.

He said: "I watched the film as a doctor and became impressed by some obvious similarities between vampires and what happens in rabies."

Both legendary vampires and rabies victims share the symptoms of aggressiveness and hypersexuality.

Dr Gomez-Alonso's thesis was published in the journal Neurology after he investigated further links between vampire stories and outbreaks of rabies in Europe.

He said: "Sometimes things that are apparently bizarre and senseless can have a logical explanation."

Balkan base

The neurologist, who works at Xeral Hospital in Vigo, Spain, found that 25% of rabid men "have a tendency to bite others".

Further study of history books uncovered that early tales of vampirism often coincided with reports of rabies outbreaks in and around the Balkans.

Dr Gomez-Alonso believes he can ascribe almost all vampire characteristics to rabies victims.

He says that:

  • Dracula's famous weaknesses - garlic and light - could be ascribed to hypersensitivity, a symptom of rabies.
  • The vampire's voracious sexual appetite and nocturnal habits could be attributed to the effect of rabies on parts of the brain that help regulate sleep cycles and sexual behaviour.
  • In the past a man was not considered rabid if he could look at his own reflection - an explanation for vampires not having a reflection.
  • The association of vampires with animals such as wolves and bats could be explained by the fact that those creatures are susceptible to the disease.

Even the vampire's fatal bite could be traced to rabies, he says.

Dr Gomez-Alonso said: "Man has a tendency to bite, both in fighting and in sexual activities.

"The intensification of such tendency by rabies increases the risk of transmission, as the virus is in saliva and other body secretions."

In his article for Neurology, Dr Gomez-Alonso wrote: "Hypersexuality may be a striking manifestation of rabies. Literature reports cases of rabid patients who practised intercourse up to 30 times in a day."

He added: "Men with rabies ... react to stimuli such as water, light, odours or mirrors with spasms of the facial and vocal muscles that can cause hoarse sounds, bared teeth and frothing at the mouth of bloody fluid."

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