History: When doctors used deadly diseases to fight other deadly diseases
Would you intentionally infect your patient with malaria? No?
What about to treat an equally deadly disease?
Well, this was exactly what happened during the first half of the 20th century when syphilitic patients were deliberately dosed with malaria in hopes of a cure.
Pre-penicillin, the stigmatising STI was incurable and resulted in the gradual and debilitating decline of body and mind.
In its tertiary stage, known as neurosyphilis, the destructive spirochete Treponema pallidum attacked the brain and spinal cord, leading to progressive blindness, dementia and paralysis.
Many patients in the final throes of the disease were involuntarily institutionalised, which was where Austrian neuropsychiatrist Dr Julius Wagner-Jauregg chanced upon a malarial soldier.