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University Is Paying Volunteers $3,500 To Get The Flu And Stay In 'Hotel Influenza'

Jun 10, 2018 10:08 AM EDT
Hotel Influenza
Volunteers can earn thousands of dollars while staying at the well-equipped Hotel Influenza. There's a caveat: you have to intentionally get sick with the influenza virus.
(Photo : Jan Vašek | Pixabay)

Saint Louis University is calling for volunteers willing to expose themselves to the influenza virus in an attempt to find a universal flu vaccine.

If the prospect of contributing to potentially groundbreaking research doesn't excite you, maybe this will: participants are paid $3,500 and will get to stay at what's being dubbed the "Hotel Influenza."

The Research

In an official statement, Daniel Hoft, the Director of the University's Center for Vaccine Development, reveals that the research is the next step in developing a universal vaccine for the flu.

Hotel Influenza lets researchers administer human challenge studies, which is a more straight-forward approach than the traditional clinical trials. Human challenge studies work by giving a volunteer the vaccination, then intentionally exposing them to the flu virus to see if they actually get sick.

According to Hoft, this is a method that will let the team collect information much more quickly. It will also be less expensive with fewer volunteers needed than a regular vaccine study.

"In a traditional flu study, we vaccinate people and see if their immune systems respond by creating antibodies that fight flu," Hoft explains. "In a human challenge study, we vaccinate people, then deliberately challenge their bodies by exposing them to flu to see if they get sick."

CBS reports that the university is planning to start the first pilot program by the end of 2018.

Hotel Influenza

SLU converted a section of the former hotel in the Salus Center to act as a 24-room research area for volunteers. The individuals will be quarantined in Hotel Influenza for around 10 days after their exposure to the vaccine and virus.

During their stay, the patients will be observed and tested for possible infection and shedding of the virus.

While deliberately exposing one's self to sickness may not sound too appealing, the volunteers will get compensation, comfortable accommodations, and the possibility of contributing to important research.

"We can give people a vaccine and challenge them with more than one virus, maybe at different times, to quickly access the actual breadth of protection against different strains of flu," Hoft says about a universal flu vaccine. He points out that there's currently no vaccine that can protect people against all influenza strains, which is known to change every year.

Hotel Influenza offers hotel-type rooms equipped with television, internet, and private bathrooms. It also has a comfortable common area as well as catered meals and exercise equipment.

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