Giving Yourself Malaria to Cure Your Syphilis
So you've just woken up after a drunken weekend of ill-advised sexual misadventures, and you notice that it hurts when you pee. Your doctor gives you the bad news -- you've contracted syphilis. The good news, though, is that it's a treatable condition -- they can clear it right up just by giving you a touch of the single greatest cause of death in the history of the human species.
"Not a single one of my patients will give the treatment a bad review."
Yep, malaria totally cures syphilis. The guy who discovered it even won a Nobel Prize for it.
Even if this wasn't insane to begin with, it hardly seems worthwhile to try to cure one disease by contracting a worse one. You wouldn't try to solve a rat infestation by releasing a bunch of poisonous snakes into your house. But back in those days, it wasn't that simple. Doctors knew that syphilis was caused by some kind of bacteria, but they didn't have the antibiotics needed to treat it. And if it's left untreated, syphilis can be seriously bad news -- it can eventually turn into neurosyphilis, which results in brain degradation, seizures, vision loss, and loss of control over your bowels.
Incidentally, the same symptoms as listening to a Nickelback album.
Enter Dr. Julius Wagner-Jauregg, an Austrian doctor who figured out that the bacteria behind syphilis can be killed by a high fever (that is, after all, what a fever is for -- it's your body's attempt to destroy an infection by roasting it alive). And nothing triggers a fever better than a good case of malaria.
Of course, then they needed to get rid of the malaria. That meant that they had to give you AIDS. Just kidding. They had a pretty successful antidote for malaria at the time, so once you were syphilis-free, they'd just give you the malaria treatment and call it square. It's that kind of outside-the-box thinking that will either save mankind or result in some kind of mutant parasite apocalypse.
Related Reading: Did you know baby foreskins can treat ulcers? We bet you wish you didn't. And were you aware shoving feces up your nose can heal stomach problems? 'Cause it can! And if that ain't enough body horror for you, these old-timey medical treatments ought to satisfy your mad whims.