Addison’s disease affected doomed Franklin Expedition: prof
A professor of dentistry and his colleagues have published a theory that seeks to explain why Inuit who encountered members of the doomed Franklin Expedition in the 19th century noticed the men had hard, dry and black mouths.
Russell Taichman at the University of Michigan says several explorers who interviewed Inuit who encountered the British sailors after they had abandoned their icebound ships noticed strange dental symptoms.
Taichman, who is from Toronto and has long been fascinated with Sir John Franklin’s failed mission to locate the Northwest Passage, said the symptoms didn’t seem to fit other theories about what befell the crew, such as scurvy, lead poisoning or spoilage in the tinned food they carried.
So, he and a librarian at the university, Mark MacEachern, began combing through medical literature to figure it out.
“What kept coming up several times was tuberculosis,’’ said Taichman.
“It was pretty common in British sailors at the time, living in close quarters.’’
Taichman said he discussed the finding with an oncologist and hematologist Frank Cackowski, who explained that tuberculosis can cause adrenal deficiency, or Addison’s disease.
Addison’s can produce the symptoms that were observed by the Inuit, Taichman said, although he noted it rarely progresses to that point in modern times.