An Austrian experts' commission says hundreds of people, including children, were injected with the parasite which causes malaria as part of research for a cure against syphilis, long after penicillin was available.

The commission is investigating accusations by former wards of a state-run orphanage. State broadcaster ORF quoted commission head Gernot Heiss Friday as saying that ongoing investigations of the 1951-1969 period show that 230 people, including some children at the orphanage, were subjects of the experiment.

Syphilis experiments

A man holds a ruler next to the arm of a woman who had been infected with a venereal disease in the late 1940s in Guatemala, in this undated picture released by The National Archives at Atlanta. Some 1,300 people were infected with venereal disease, more than half of them with syphilis, by U.S. government researchers for an experiment in the 1940s, according to a U.S. presidential commission. (The National Archives at Atlanta/Reuters)

The injections normally caused two weeks of fever as high as 42 degrees Celsius as well as sudden fever attacks continuing up to two decades. It was not disclosed whether anyone died as a result.

The fever was meant to kill the syphilis bacteria, but the method was widely replaced by penicillin treatments by the 1940s.

Malaria is a potentially fatal disease caused by parasites and usually spread to people by infected mosquitoes. Most deaths occur in children under 5.

Malaria causes symptoms including fever, headache, chills and vomiting. Severe cases can cause anemia, breathing problems, brain damage and multi-organ failure.

The disease can be treated if caught early but there is no vaccine. Malaria is estimated to kill more than 600,000 people every year, mostly African children.

In 2010, the U.S. government apologized for experiments in which government researchers used prostitutes to deliberately infect prison inmates in Guatemala with syphilis.