“The Water Tower Inn in St. Louis — now a part of St. Louis University’s Salus Center — is an ‘extended stay research unit,’ in which guests can earn $3,500 by allowing researchers to expose them to flu virus and watch what happens. At ‘Hotel Influenza,’ volunteers are exposed to either a placebo or a live flu virus, allowing researchers from the university’s Center for Vaccine Development to study how the flu slowly overtakes humans. After about ten days — or until they are no longer contagious — the volunteers will be set free.”1
(Interesting side note: If you call The Water Tower Inn in St. Louis, Missouri, an automated voice will pick up, “Thank you for calling the Water Tower Inn. We are now permanently closed.” Don’t let that automated voice fool you though; this is the home of St. Louis University’s Extended Stay Research Unit.)
- British Medical Journal: Flu vaccines seem to be modifying influenza into a dangerous dengue-like disease
However, did you know that these types of “human challenge study” have been going on for awhile? According to Matthew Memoli, Ph.D., Director of the NIH’s Laboratory of Infectious Disease Clinical Studies Unit, this method of study “has been used for nearly 100 years.”2
In 1936, the first human challenge study of note was conducted when two Russian doctors exposed 72 volunteers to influenza. From that study, researchers learned that “flu tends to enter the body through the lower respiratory tract.” However, shortly after that study, the ethical considerations of exposing healthy subjects to disease became even more complicated because of the discovery of the experiments Nazi’s did during WWII.
Although the World Health Organization has since issued strict guidelines for human challenge studies, they remain rare in the US. Memoli himself was one of the first to conduct a human challenge study (nearly a decade long) which he published in 2014.
The current trial at St. Louis University is the next step in what Memoli sees as a resurgence in this controversial method of study: 3
“In influenza, we can learn about immune response because we can study it from the second someone is exposed to flu in a challenge trial. This cannot be done in any other way because by the time a person presents to a doctor with a natural flu infection many hours and usually days have gone by.”
While I’m sure this method of study is important for researchers (and the idea of getting paid to take a hotel vacation isn’t too shabby) I’m more concerned about the backend; if you are one of the participants who receive influenza, will they want to vaccinate you as well? Would they be willing to feed me a healthy diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables, plenty of Vitamins C & D, Elderberry syrup every 3 hours, calcium lactate, and essential oils to strengthen my immune system, during the trial? (Then they could really learn about how to help people who get the flu and stop pushing that worthless Tamiflu.)
Would you be willing to participate in a human challenge study?