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Want to make $3,300? Let these scientists infect you with the flu

Published Nov 1st, 2019 2:21PM EDT
flu volunteers
Image: Oleksiy Maksymenko/imageBROKER/Shutterstock

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Nobody wants the flu. Coming down with the seasonal illness means several days of aches, pains, congestion, and fever, so it’s best to avoid it if at all possible. But what if getting sick paid the bills? Scientists from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases are asking for 80 volunteers who wouldn’t mind struggling through an uncomfortable illness, and they’re paying handsomely for it.

The researchers are offering an award of $3,300 per person, and they intend to infect the volunteers with the particularly nasty strain of flu known as H1N1. It’s a virus that caused a pandemic just a decade ago, so scientists want a better understanding of how the disease spreads. To do that, they need sick people.

The ominously-labeled “human challenge study” is actually fairly straightforward, at least in terms of what volunteers will be asked to do. First, the participants (who must be between 18 and 50 years of age) will be deliberately infected with H1N1 via a nasal spray containing a strain of the virus.

The volunteers will then be asked to remain in the clinic for at least a week following the infection. Doctors will monitor their condition and study how the virus is “shed” from the body. The symptoms each participant experiences will be logged daily, and a variety of tests will be performed during their stay at the clinic and for up to three months after.

Tests like this allow scientists to better understand how a virus like H1N1 affects those who come down with it. The data gathered may play a role in the development of future vaccines and treatments as well, so the volunteers can feel good about contributing to overall public health while also collecting a hefty paycheck for their week of illness.

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