Researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital have identified a specific gene mutation that causes a number of biological effects we typically associate with blood-sucking vampires. Now, scientists believe that this blood disorder, named erythropoietic protoporphyria (EPP), may be the inspiration for your favorite legendary vampires, like Dracula. (And Edward Cullen and Bill Compton and Damon Salvatore…)
EPP is a very rare disorder, but for those it affects, it significantly impacts their quality of life. Centuries ago – way, way before there was a scientific name for this genetic mutation – people probably saw someone with EPP and jumped to extreme conclusions. Like the conclusion that they are immortal and like to suck people’s blood.
EPP is the most common of the eight porphyrias, or blood disorders. The condition affects the body’s ability to make heme, a component of hemoglobin, the protein that transports oxygen throughout the blood. Basically, it’s a severe form of anemia.
Even catching a bit of sunlight through a window can be enough for someone with EPP to experience “swelling, burning and redness of the skin.” With such an unusual – and somewhat frightening – condition, it’s easy to see how humans came up with vampire legends before there was, you know, science and stuff.
9. They Need Lots Of Blood...But It’s Not What You Think
People with EPP do need lots of fresh blood, but don’t worry – they don’t drink it. EPP sufferers need regular transfusions to maintain the protein levels in their blood. So your “vampire” friend probably won’t bite into your neck and suck your blood, but they may ask for a Blood Bank donation.
10. But Back In The Day, They May Have Craved Blood
Now that we have more information about EPP, it’s just common sense to give EPP patients blood transfusions. But in ancient times, sufferers might have survived by drinking animal blood. See how that could come across as a bit weird?
This blood disorder is rare, affecting about 1 in 74,300 individuals. The condition affects males and females equally, and the symptoms usually occur in infancy or early childhood. Also, EPP isn’t specific to any one geographic location – it’s prevalent all over the world.
People with EPP must avoid the sun at all costs. That means staying indoors and wearing protective clothing whenever outside. As you can imagine, this condition can be severely debilitating when it comes to social lives and simple daily activities. Unsurprisingly, many EPP patients suffer from depression and anxiety.
13. Between The Sun Sensitivity And Liver Disease, EPP Is Brutal
Sadly, liver failure is somewhat common in EPP patients – about two to five percent of people affected experience liver failure, which can be fatal. Scientists believe this may be due to the fact that the liver is working overtime to clear excessive by-products from the defective haem pathway. Thus, many EPP patients require liver transplants at some point in their lives.
14. Science Could One Day Cure These Real-Life 'Vampires'
All of the vampire legends that have inspired countless Hollywood blockbusters and TV shows may have been due to nothing more than a rare medical condition that people simply didn't understand. So is it time to forget about your nightmare of being attacked by a vampire? Probably.
But then again, nobody has actually proved that vampires don't exist...