Heart infection could be cause of death of Polish, US hero

Category: Health


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. stress / strɛs / (v.) – to give special attention to something

    He stressed the importance of preparation and reminded students to study before their exams.

  2. hypothesis / haɪˈpɒθ ə sɪs / (n.) – an idea that suggests a possible explanation for something but is not yet proven and can lead to further examination

    The scientist’s hypothesis is that watching too much TV reduces children’s ability to concentrate.

  3. document / ˈdɒk yəˌmɛnt / (v.) – to make a record of something through writing, filming, voice recording, etc.

    Make sure to document all the transactions this week.

  4. fortification / fɔr tə fɪˈkeɪ ʃən / (n.) – a structure, such as a tower or a wall, built to protect a place

    The fortifications helped defend the old city from invaders.

  5. ill-fated / ˈɪlˈfeɪ tɪd / (adj.) – likely to have an unhappy or unlucky ending

    The movie is about an ill-fated love story of a young couple.


Read the text below.

Medical and genetics experts in Poland say that a heart infection caused by a common skin bacteria could have caused the 1817 death of Tadeusz Kosciuszko, a Polish and U.S. military leader and national hero.

The experts said last month they found the genome of the Cutibacterium acne in the wax, wood and linen that had long-term contact with the tissues of Kosciuszko’s heart, which has been preserved. They said it could have led to endocarditis, or inflammation inside the heart, and to his death, aged 71, in Switzerland.

The team was led by Prof. Michał Witt, head of the human genetics institute at the Polish Academy of Sciences in Poznan, and Dr. Tadeusz Dobosz of the Wroclaw Medical University. They took the samples for their molecular tests from a vessel where the heart is being kept, at the Royal Castle in Warsaw.

Under some conditions, skin bacteria can attack the internal organs, including the heart, leading to very serious problems, Witt told Polish Radio Zet24.

He stressed that it’s hard to say for sure what caused Kosciuszko’s death but that their findings have led them to the “rationally based hypothesis” that it was the acne bacteria that caused the documented rapid deterioration of his health and death.

Previously, typhoid fever or pneumonia were believed to have ended Kosciuszko’s life. He was said to have developed a high fever and chills after he had fallen off his horse into a cold stream.

Born in 1746 in the then-Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Kosciuszko fought as colonel of the Continental Army in the 1776 American Revolutionary War. A military engineer and architect, he designed and oversaw the construction of America’s fortifications, including West Point.

Back to restless Poland, in 1794 he commanded an ill-fated uprising against the Russian Empire that was annexing some of Poland’s lands. He spent his last years in Switzerland.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • Recently, experts came up with a hypothesis on the cause of Kosciuszko’s death in 1817. What do you think is the importance of this finding? Discuss.
  • Experts found the cause of Kosciuszko’s death from whom his heart which has been preserved. What possessions or belongings of national heroes do you think should be preserved? Why? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • Kosciuszko is a Polish and U.S. military leader and national hero. In your country, who is a national hero that’s like Kosciuszko? What do you think are his/her most important contributions? Discuss.
  • What part of the life of this national hero do you want to know more about (ex. the cause of his/her death, work before being a national hero)? Why? Discuss.