Simon Bolivar died of arsenic poisoning

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Simon Bolivar, the 19th Century political leader, probably died of arsenic poisoning rather than tuberculosis and may even have been murdered, according to new research.

Bolivar, a brilliant military tactician who liberated much of the continent of South America from centuries of Spanish rule, died at the age of 47 in Santa Marta, Colombia on Dec 17, 1830.

He had suffered from a mysterious illness that was believed at the time to be tuberculosis and spent his final days emaciated, coughing and bed ridden.

Dr Paul Auwaerter, an infectious diseases specialist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland carried out a detailed study of his recorded symptoms.

They included darkened skin, extreme weight loss, exhaustion, coughing, loss of consciousness and persistent headaches.

He found Bolivar's condition was probably caused by arsenic which may have entered his system through drinking contaminated water, or when doctors used the naturally occurring poison to try to cure headaches or haemorrhoids.

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