Where did Edward VI’s skin ulcers come from?

I’ve been looking more deeply into how Edward VI died and whether or not it could have been non-classical cystic fibrosis. Here’s a nice excerpt from Jennifer Loach’s biography of the boy-king:

“Edward caught a feverish cold in 1533. March 17 still in his room, looking puny. Troubled with “catarrh and cough”. Felt a bit better in April. Moved court to Greenwich. Imperial Ambassador Scheyfve wrote that a palace insider told him Ed was “becoming weaker as time passes and wasting away. The matter that he ejects from his mouth is sometimes coloured a greenish yellow and black, sometimes pink, like the color of blood” The docs were baffled. Scheyfve wrote a week later that the king was in great danger of dying. May 12 ambassador wrote that he docs decided Ed had a suppurating tumour in his lung, “or at least his lung is attacked”. He broke out in ulcers, “vexed by a harsh, continuous cough, his body is dry and burning, his belly is swollen, he has a slow fever upon him that never leaves him.” A week or so later ambassador wrote that the king was “wasting away daily … he cannot rest except by means of medicines … his body has begun to swell, especially his head and feet.”

Hmmmm … the pulmonary issues and swelling and fever are all common indicators of non-classic CF, but what about the ulcers on Edward’s skin?

I think it ties into non-classic CF as well.  In non-classic CF patients there are usually chronic airway infections, and one of the most common culprits of these infections is the pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Nowadays, P. aeruginosa is treated with antibiotics and can be fought with reasonable success. However, in Edward’s time there was no such hope of keeping the P. aeruginosa from running amok. One of the things this nasty little bacteria can do is cause “hemorrhagic and necrotic lesions, with surrounding erythema; subcutaneous nodules, deep abscesses, cellulitis, and fasciitis; in burns, black or violaceous discoloration or eschar”. In short, it can give you what looks like little ulcers on your skin.

If Edward had non-classic CF then the long-standing infection of P. aeruginosa could have opportunistically spread to other systems in his body –  such as his skin — as his immune system weakened. Thus, he broke out in ulcers.

Yet another piece of evidence indicating non-classic CF was a possibility, mayhap even a likelihood, in Edward’s premature death.

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