Pyrotherapy: An Awful Nobel Prize for Infecting People with Malaria | Summary and Q&A

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September 17, 2017
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Pyrotherapy: An Awful Nobel Prize for Infecting People with Malaria

TL;DR

Pyrotherapy was a risky treatment for neurosyphilis in the early 20th century, involving infecting patients with malaria to induce high fevers.

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Questions & Answers

Q: What is pyrotherapy?

Pyrotherapy was an experimental treatment for neurosyphilis in the early 20th century, involving infecting patients with malaria to induce high fevers.

Q: Why did Dr. Wagner-Jauregg experiment with different substances before trying malaria?

Dr. Wagner-Jauregg tried tuberculosis proteins, typhoid vaccines, and Streptococcus bacteria because he wanted to cause a fever but didn't have a reliable method.

Q: How did pyrotherapy work to treat neurosyphilis?

The repeated bouts of high fever caused by malaria were thought to burn the syphilis bacteria out of the patients' bodies, leading to improvement in neurosyphilis symptoms.

Q: Why did pyrotherapy fall out of use after World War II?

The development and widespread distribution of antibiotics, particularly penicillin, provided a safe and effective treatment for syphilis, rendering pyrotherapy unnecessary.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Pyrotherapy was an experimental treatment for neurosyphilis in the early 1900s when there was no known cure for syphilis.

  • Dr. Julius Wagner-Jauregg noticed that fever helped improve a neurosyphilis patient's condition and conducted non-consensual experiments with tuberculosis proteins and Streptococcus bacteria.

  • When a soldier with malaria was mistakenly sent to his clinic, Wagner-Jauregg infected neurosyphilis patients with malaria and successfully cured half of them.

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