600-year-old Dracula breath reveals notorious killer's surprising secret

Vlad the Impaler, the real-life inspiration behind the fictional vampire Dracula, may have been a vegan.

Vlad III was a 15th-century prince of Wallachia, a region that is now part of Romania.

Infamous for his cruelty and use of impalement as a method of execution, he is said to been responsible for the deaths of more than 80,000 people in his lifetime – but perhaps not animals.

Researchers analysing letters written by Vlad in 1457 and 1475 have already determined he cried bloody tears due to a medical condition, but have now discovered a more surprising fact.

The letters contained no traces of animal proteins, suggesting that Vlad may have been avoiding meat.

The researchers used a technique called proteomics, a method of identifying and studying proteins that stuck to the letters over the centuries – including those he breathed onto the paper.

‘We characterised about 500 peptides, of which about 100 peptides were certainly of human origin,’ the authors wrote in their study, published in ACS Analytical Chemistry.

‘Peptides related to blood proteins or coming from proteins involved in the respiratory system were identified in all the documents characterised.’

Researchers also found proteins in the letter suggesting Vlad may have had hemolacria, a condition that causes a person to produce tears partially composed of blood.

‘Although proteomics data cannot be considered exhaustive alone, altogether, these identifications might indicate that Dracula “cried tears of blood”,’ they wrote.

Further analysis also revealed that the Romanian ruler showed signs of ciliopathy, a genetic disorder and retinal and inflammatory diseases. 

But despite his bloody reputation, the team found an absence of animal food proteins when analysing the letters.

However, this might not be a conscious choice as meat was scarce at the time, or it could have been due to a lack of it or his poor health.

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