Old-school medicineSeptember 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!”