University will pay you $3,500 to get the flu and book you a 10-day stay at 'Hotel Influenza'

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University researchers are hoping that $3,500 will convince enough people to risk possibly suffering through a bout of diarrhea, fever, body aches and other flu symptoms in the name of science. The pitch is for volunteers to willingly expose themselves to the influenza virus after receiving either the flu vaccine or a placebo, in hopes that the results will lead to a better understanding of the illness.

“In a traditional flu study, we vaccinate people and see if their immune systems respond by creating antibodies that fight flu,” Daniel Hoft, director of Saint Louis University’s Center for Vaccine Development, said in a statement. “In a human challenge study, we vaccinate people, then deliberately challenge their bodies by exposing them to flu to see if they get sick.”


The study will require volunteers to be quarantined for 10 days at the university’s former hotel which was converted into a research room suite and is now being dubbed “Hotel Influenza.” Volunteers will stay in hotel-style rooms with private bathrooms, television and Internet. Researchers will observe the volunteers, conduct blood and lung tests and take nose swabs to see if they are infected with the flu. They will not be able to leave until they test negative for two days.

“You know when they’re exposed to the flu, so can plan exactly when to study it,” Hoft said. “You are not waiting for nature to take its course. If a challenge trial shows the vaccine protected a small group of volunteers against the flu, you and be much more confident the vaccine is more likely to be worth the hundreds of millions of dollars of investment to go through phase 3 development.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recorded 121 influenza-associated pediatric deaths for the 2017-2018 flu season, while also noting a record-breaking number of hospitalizations across all ages.