Why Knut died – level 3
Scientists have finally cracked the mystery of the death of Knut, a celebrity polar bear who died at Berlin Zoo in 2011 when he was just four years old.
Knut won global fame after being rejected by his mother at birth and instead hand-reared by his keeper. He died suddenly in March 2011 after falling into his enclosure pool. And while a post mortem revealed Knut had encephalitis or swollen brain, scientists remained puzzled by the exact cause of the illness. But now, animal experts say they’ve solved the riddle after testing a sample of the polar bear’s brain for a condition known as anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis.
“We had all the samples we needed to test it, so together with Harold we started a project and within six or eight weeks we had determined that’s exactly what Knut had. And so, that solved that case, explained our results from our pathogen screening and told us this is why Knut had encephalitis, this is what caused him to lose his balance and drown in the water.”
The disease is relatively uncommon, affecting around 200,000 people a year and this is the first time it’s ever been diagnosed in an animal. The findings were published today in the journal Scientific Reports.
Difficult words: post mortem (examination of a dead body to determine the cause of death), encephalitis (inflammation of the brain; swollen brain), swollen (to become bigger and painful, usually because of an infection), puzzled (not able to understand), riddle (mystery), diagnose (to say what caused a problem).
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