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Newly Found Genetic Disorder Might Explain Where “Vampires” Came From

Newly Found Genetic Disorder Might Explain Where “Vampires” Came From

Long before movies turned vampires into sex symbols, and thousands of years before Bram Stoker’s Dracula hit the shelves, tales of pale, blood-thirsty monsters with fangs could be found in countless myths the world over. But how did so many vastly different cultures come up with this particular Joseph Campbell villain with an ashen face? A newly discovered genetic mutation might explain exactly where all those vampire legends came from, and sadly it’s much worse than any scary tall tale.

Researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital have found a genetic mutation (that we learned about at Second Nexus) that results in erythropoietic protoporphyria (EPP), a type of porphyria which causes extremely painful photosensitivity. People with the condition, who are also chronically anemic, suffer from severe “swelling, burning, itching, and redness of the skin” when exposed to sunlight. That means they have to stay indoors during the day, even when it’s cloudy, because ultraviolet light can still cause severe damage.

Vampires are also defined as blood drinkers though, and a treatment for EPP could explain that element of the myth too. Symptoms can be relieved by blood transfusions, and as the researchers noted, “In ancient times, drinking animal blood and emerging only at night may have achieved a similar effect — adding further fuel to the legend of vampires.”

That could mean all vampire myths were based on real people who couldn’t go out during the day, were completely pale because they never saw the sun, and who needed to “drink” blood, all so they didn’t have to live in incredible pain. But far from being monsters to fear, they were — and are — people who deserve empathy and understanding. It’s a horrible condition, one unfortunately stigmatized by a fictional creature.

Hopefully, by discovering the genetic mutation that causes EPP a better, more permanent treatment can be found. That’s a story we’d much rather read than another vampire tale.

What other legends or myths would you like to learn more about their real world connections? Tell us in the comments below.

Images: Universal Pictures, Columbia Pictures; Warner Bros.

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