Fangs, sunlight and garlic
The classic vampires of legend have prominent fangs to pierce their victims’ necks, are nocturnal and have pale skin due to their aversion to sunlight. They can also be warded off with garlic. Thanks to medical advances, these days we know of several conditions that could actually explain some of these features. Porphyria is a group of conditions that may have contributed to the vampire myth. One type, called congenital erythropoietic porphyria (CEP), causes a toxic build-up of light-activated molecules in the skin. When sufferers are exposed to sunlight these toxins can eat away at the skin, damaging the gum tissue to make teeth look longer and fang-like. As well as Sun sensitivity, porphyria can also make people hypersensitive to foods high in sulphur, such as garlic. Similar symptoms can be experienced by those suffering from rabies, a deadly virus that can be transmitted to humans if bitten by an infected animal. Rabid people can develop insomnia, become aggressive – even trying to bite people – and demonstrate an aversion to strong stimuli, including bright light and strong smells like garlic. The diagnosis of rabies also fits the common depiction of male vampires pursuing female victims. The condition is seven times more common in men and can cause an increased libido by affecting the body’s limbic system.
The rabies virus is transmitted to humans via animal bites, often from infected dogs
Porphyria makes sunlight painful and can even cause blistering