Dr Michael Mosley explores the ways in which pioneering doctors laid the foundations of modern medicine by experimenting on themselves. He looks at how doctors came to understand infectious diseases by deliberately infecting themselves with conditions like syphilis, yellow fever and cholera.
18th century surgeon John Hunter is thought to have stabbed himself in the groin with the pus of a syphilis patient to prove his theory that syphilis and gonorrhoea were different stages of the same disease. Dr Jesse Lazear demonstrated that mosquitoes spread yellow fever by allowing himself to be bitten by mosquitoes that had been feeding on dying yellow fever patients.
The programme brings us up to the present day with Dr Barry Marshall who proved through a course of painful self-experiments that a bacteria, not stress, causes ulcers as was commonly thought. Presenter Michael Mosley carries out his own self-experiment by allowing himself to be bitten by hundreds of mosquitoes at the London School of Tropical Medicine to find out which areas of the body, the disease carrying insects are most attracted to.