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The Malaria Treatment of General Paralysis


UNTIL recently the outlook for patients suffering from the disease known as general paralysis of the insane was practically hopeless. For many years, however, it has been known that the symptoms sometimes exhibited remarkable remissions, the delusions and other mental disturbances subsided or even disappeared for a time, whilst the physical condition underwent a similar improvement. It had been further observed that these remissions were often associated with some intercurrent disease, and attempts were made to induce them artificially by such measures as the production of abscesses or injection of bacterial toxins. The improvement was, however, only transient; sooner or later the mental symptoms reappeared, the patients returned to the asylum, and the disease pursued its relentless course to a fatal termination. In 1919 Wagner v. Jauregg of Vienna, as the result of many years' observation of general paralysis, concluded that possibly it was the rise of temperature, which accompanied the intercurrent disease, abscess formation, or toxin inoculation, that was in some way responsible for the improvement produced in the nervous condition. With the view of testing this hypothesis, he cast round for an infection which could safely be administered to the patients and could, after it had run the necessary course, be readily controlled by the administration of drugs. Two diseases occurred to him, namely, malaria and relapsing fever; and after preliminary trials it was found that the former was the more satisfactory. Wagner v. Jauregg therefore proceeded to infect a long series of general paralytics with malaria, and during the years 1920-21 published results of a most promising nature.


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YORKE, W. The Malaria Treatment of General Paralysis. Nature 114, 615–616 (1924).

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