Getting the flu sucks, so why not do it in style?
Researchers at Saint Louis University's Center for Vaccine Development are offering that opportunity, although their reason for it is much more scientific and less glib. They want to infect willing participants with the influenza virus — after giving them either a real vaccine or a placebo — and then monitor how their body reacts, the Center for Vaccine Development's director Daniel Hoft said.
Here's what's in it for you: A free stay at "Hotel Influenza," a payout of around $3,500, catered meals and access to TV and internet.
Scientists will infect you with some strain of the flu and either a real or fake vaccine, according to a Saint Louis University press release, and then take tests of your nose, blood and lungs to see if you came down with the aggravating virus.
It'll all happen in the university's Salus Center, which comes equipped with 24 hotel rooms that were specifically made to house quarantined people undergoing tests exactly like this one, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
It's called a "human challenge" test — and the goal is to determine how vaccines and flu strains respond to each other. Hoft explained why it's helpful for scientists to study participants whom they have purposefully infected with the flu.
“You know when they’re exposed to the flu, so can plan exactly when to study it," he said in the press release. "You are not waiting for nature to take its course. If a challenge trial shows the vaccine protected a small group of volunteers against flu, you can 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."
And interested people shouldn't have to worry about their own health — nurses will monitor you around the clock to provide any medical treatment if needed. But as noted by the Post-Dispatch, you have to be both healthy and young to participate.
The press release states that an average stay at "Hotel Influenza" should last about 10 days, and you're free to leave once you have two consecutive days where you don't test positive for the virus. And sorry, but no visitors are allowed until that happens.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration must also approve any of the tests before they begin, Stephanie Solomon Cargill, associate professor of health care ethics at SLU, told the Post-Dispatch.
Researchers hope studies like these could lead to the creation of a "universal vaccine" for all flu strains, according to Hoft.
“We can give people a vaccine and challenge them with more than one virus, maybe at different times," he said in the press release, "to quickly access the actual breadth of protection against different strains of flu.
"This is important because no one vaccine currently protects against all strains of influenza, which changes year to year.”