TECH

You Could Help Scientists Eradicate Whooping Cough, And Get Paid To Do It

Could you be a silent carrier?

15/06/2017 15:30

How much would you want to be paid to let someone make you ill on purpose and then keep you in isolation for over two weeks?

Well, you’re about to find out.

Researchers in Southampton are developing a vaccine against whooping cough, as part of a £2.3 million European-wide study funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and are looking for healthy volunteers. 

They’re offering participants over £3,526 in compensation for your time and travel costs, if you are a non-smoker, English-speaking, aged between 18 and 45-years-old, will spend 17 days in isolation, and are willing to commit to a follow-up antibiotic regime.

Daniel Allan via Getty Images

Whooping cough, also called pertussis, is a highly contagious bacterial infection of the lungs and airways, causing repeated coughing bouts that can last for two to three months or longer, according to the NHS.

Estimates from WHO suggest that, in 2008, about 16 million cases of pertussis occurred worldwide, 95% of which were in developing countries, and that about 195,000 children died from the disease.

Although a vaccine is offered to all newborns in the UK, 18 have died since 2012.  

Not only that, but the effectiveness of the vaccine has been lessening over time as it is administered to more of the population.

Professor Robert Read, working on the study, said: “The current vaccine seems to be much less effective than it was 15 years ago.”

So the new research is being funded to try and improve the vaccines we have available for babies and toddlers. 

The study is focusing on those people who seem to be naturally immune to the disease, and thus can be ‘silent carriers’, spreading whooping cough via cough or sneeze droplets, without ever succumbing to the symptoms themselves.

Read said: “We want to know what’s so special about these people and why we can’t make them into silent carriers.” 

They hope to take what they learn from silent carriers and deploy this in potential future treatment and preventative measures. 

The volunteers will be inoculated with nose drops containing B.pertussis bacteria, then put in an isolation unit for 17 days to have their immune response monitored.

They will get a private room, with access to toilets, showers and a recreational area. Meals, drinks, snacks and entertainment will also be provided, but they will have to wear a mask when they have contact with others.

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