Polar bear Knut: cause of death is certain

When polar bear Knut was born at Zoo Berlin in 2006, it caused a sensation. It was a tragedy when his beloved carer Thomas Dörflein died, and three years later the cute polar bear died as well. People all over the world mourned the cuddly polar bear that had taken hearts by storm.

An inflammation of the brain caused him to have an epileptic seizure. He fell into the water and drowned. But the autopsy presented the researchers with a puzzle at the time: No pathogens, neither viruses nor bacteria, that could have triggered the encephalitis were discovered. It is now clear that the animal suffered from a rare autoimmune disease that has only recently become known and has so far only been found in humans. The video shows the cutest scenes of polar bear Knut and his keeper. Be careful, have tissues ready!

In the video, the cuddly polar bear is shown shortly after birth. His mother had rejected him and so the nurse Thomas Dörflein became Knut’s foster father. He lovingly took care of the sweet brat, nurtured and cared for him, played with him. Polar bear Knut followed his human daddy everywhere. In 2008, Dörflein died suddenly and unexpectedly, Knut was suddenly all alone in the world again. Almost three years later, the four-legged friend followed his favorite person to death. Who knows, maybe they’ve been reunited since then, playing and cuddling together on a cloud and watching the hustle and bustle on earth.

The findings from the autopsy of the polar bear represent an important advance for science, reports, among others, the “Spiegel”. The autoimmune disease in which the immune system fights the body’s own brain cells like pathogens is called anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis. It has only been known in humans since 2007 and causes learning and memory disorders, hallucinations, dementia or epileptic seizures. It is only now clear that animals can also become ill. The researchers now hope that the findings can be used to improve the diagnostic process so that the disease can be detected and cured more quickly.

Polar bear family enjoying the sunset together — Image: Shutterstock / outdoorsman
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