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Get malaria, get paid

malariaNIH.JPGIf you read Brendan Maher’s Nature feature from a week or so ago you would have come across this rather arresting introduction:

In 1987 Rip Ballou taped an ice-cream carton to his arm. The young US Army doctor was doing his bit for science; inside the carton five hungry mosquitoes set about doing theirs.

Now you can undergo a similar experience. A new research facility is being set up in Seattle: the Human Challenge Centre. What they plan to ‘challenge’ volunteers with is malaria.

After being given a potential malaria vaccine, victims, sorry test subjects, will be bitten by infected mosquitoes. Then researchers from the Malaria Vaccine Initiative and the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute will see if the vaccine is any good (press release pdf).

Fox News thinks you’ll get about $2,000 for taking part, AP thinks it could be up to $4,000.

Exactly how much you might be paid for this is not yet clear and will have to be determined by an independent panel, according to Fox. “It’s a sensitive issue. They want to make sure it’s fair … but not so much that somebody would say, ‘I can’t turn down this opportunity’,” Patrick Duffy, head of the SBRI malaria program told them.

The Seattle Times notes that over 900 people have already taken part in malaria trials at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Maryland and there are two other labs that conduct similar experiments in England and the Netherlands.

James Cummings, chief of Walter Reed’s clinical trials centre, tell the paper he took part in a trial and got malaria. “I felt like I had the flu — chills and shakes for the first few hours,” he says. But he was getting better in eight hours.

The Times’s in-depth coverage also includes a poll: Would you allow yourself to be infected with a form of curable malaria for $2,000-$4,000 in compensation? Currently it’s: Yes 58% (1082 votes) / No 32% (599 votes) / Not sure 9% (172 votes).

More on Malaria from Nature

Malaria: The end of the beginning – After decades of work, a pioneering malaria vaccine may soon reach the final phase of clinical trials.

Malaria: The big push – Zambia, with help from partners around the world, is stepping up its battle against malaria.

Malaria fact file

Image: NIH


  1. Report this comment

    Ian Skidmore said:

    It has been done before. Decades ago senior scientists at what was a precursor of AstraZenca, among them Arthur Walpole whose team discovered Tamoxifen, infected themselves with Malaria, testing a new potential anti-malarial. He ended up in hospital where he was asked “where did you catch it” his reply…Manchester!

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    Abdaalah Samy said:

    Searching for Malaria Vaccine will be the area of interest among all who work in such field, from my point the team work that will introduce a vaccine of choice will obtain Nobel Prize. The best choice to control any VTDs must run in a way depending on integration of both vector control and disease treatment.Here we must learn from Egyptian researchers who eliminate A. gambiae, the main Malaria vector,thus contributing the absence of malaria cases in Egypt until now. So, we cant seperate among the two control methods. Vaccine efficiency measurement reqire many volunteers to give the scientific opinion whether this drug or vaccine is the best of choice or not. All these experimental studies must be performed under international Ethical standards and not by institutional Ethical code, the thing that is not clear in the published news. So, when we say the word "Clinical trials’ must be accompanied by Ethics of conducting such research.

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    Mon said:

    Many would definitely takes risk on this as the price is huge. However, for those who are hesitant, they are absolutely thinking about what might happen next after the test. It would be okay if the vaccines they used for testing is effective but what if aren’t. better think first before signing up.



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