Old-school medicine

September 17, 2008

In the TV show House, Dr. Gregory House regularly pushes his patients to the brink of death in various ways, always as part of some crazy high-risk scheme to save their lives.

Biomedically savvy viewers may dismiss these scenarios as unrealistic, but yesterday I came across this historical note while skimming Microbiology in Action by Heritage, Evans, and Killington:

One old cure for syphilis, used before penicillin became widely available, was to give the patient malaria. This causes regular, predictable bouts of fever. Treponema pallidum [the bacterium that causes syphilis] cannot tolerate repeated fevers.

Can’t you imagine House doing this? I can almost hear him saying to his team, “C’mon, you guys — penicillin is expensive, but malaria is FREE!”


  1. Reminds me of the children's song about the old lady who swallowed a fly (no one knows why), then swallowed a spider to catch the fly, then swallowed a bird to catch the spider, etc., with ultimately unfortunate consequences.So what pathogen do you intentionally infect the patient with to get rid of the malaria?

  2. What happened to running?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: