Knut's Killer: Brain Disease

Viral encephalitis pinpointed in 'exhaustive' review

By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 6, 2014 8:13 AM CST

(Newser) – An exhaustive look into the cause of death of beloved polar bear Knut, almost three years after his death, has confirmed that a viral form of encephalitis, or a brain-inflammation disease, led to his seizures and eventual drowning. "But as there were no signs of disease beforehand there was no clinical checkup," a researcher tells LiveScience. "And therefore nobody could have known for sure before the histology that there was an inflammation." The disease was caused by either an unknown virus or an eliminated infection; flu and equine herpesviruses, which have been known to wreak havoc in some zoos, were ruled out.

In this Dec. 5, 2010 file photo, polar bear Knut stands behind his 'birthday cake' to celebrate his 4th birthday in the Zoo of Berlin, Germany.
In this Dec. 5, 2010 file photo, polar bear Knut stands behind his 'birthday cake' to celebrate his 4th birthday in the Zoo of Berlin, Germany.   (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, File)
In this March 23, 2007 file photo Knut, the polar bear cub, has his first public appearance in the Berlin Zoo.
In this March 23, 2007 file photo Knut, the polar bear cub, has his first public appearance in the Berlin Zoo.   (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
In this March 23, 2007 file photo, Knut the polar bear cub has his first public appearance in the Berlin Zoo.
In this March 23, 2007 file photo, Knut the polar bear cub has his first public appearance in the Berlin Zoo.   (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
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