Researchers at St. Louis University want to make you ill, but for a noble purpose. The university has turned the old Water Tower Inn in the city into a research unit where people receive influenza virus on purpose. Nicknamed Hotel Influenza, this center will pay people $3,500 to get exposed to the flu virus and see how they react.
At Hotel Influenza, people are willingly being infected with the flu virus
Hotel Influenza gathers mainly researchers from the university’s Center for Vaccine Development. There, people can receive either the real flu virus or a placebo and, then, researchers will look at what happens in their bodies. They have to stay there for ten days, as the virus is highly contagious. When the period is over, they can go back home after receiving $3,500 for agreeing with the experiment.
This type of study actually has a long and complicated history. About 100 years ago, researchers came up with the idea for the human challenge study. This consisted of exposing people directly to the disease virus. Of course, this hasn’t always been safe, but the recent development of technology has made the method better for using.
People are still skeptical about such human challenge studies
The first time when researchers attempted a Hotel Influenza experiment was in 1936. Two doctors from Russia selected 72 healthy volunteers and exposed them to the flu virus. This way, they discovered the entrance point of the virus in the organism was through the lower part of the respiratory tract.
However, there was a problem with such scientific trials, and it seems to persist. People started debating if it’s ethical to expose healthy people to different viruses. The Hotel Influenza experiment should be safe, since people have to consent to the infection and they also receive a monetary reward. Such human challenge studies are still frowned upon, and they come with plenty of guidelines and restrictions from WHO.
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