Saint Louis University is willing to pay $3,500 to anyone who’s willing to stay in “Hotel Influenza,” a remodeled hotel where participants run the risk of contracting the flu during a stay that could last close to two weeks, in an effort to help scientists develop better and more effective influenza vaccines in the aftermath of a historically brutal flu season in the U.S.
According to KMOV, the so-called “Hotel Influenza” is located in SLU’s Salus Center, a facility formerly known as the Water Tower Inn. Participants will be asked to stay in the hotel for up to 12 days and will randomly be given a flu vaccine or a placebo before they are given a dose of the flu virus via nasal spray. Researchers will then tally their observations around the clock, recording any possible symptoms the participants may be suffering from, and helping them through a series of blood and lung tests to determine if they were infected by the flu or not.
A separate report from Fortune described the experiment as a “human challenge study,” one which the researchers believe would help them gather data faster without having to recruit a large number of participants.
“In a traditional flu study, we vaccinate people and see if their immune systems respond by creating antibodies that fight flu,” explained SLU Center for Vaccine Development director Daniel Hoft.
“In a human challenge study, we vaccinate people, then deliberately challenge their bodies by exposing them to flu to see if they get sick.”
All in all, 24 people will be living in Hotel Influenza, and while the prospect of contracting the flu and being quarantined for over a week might not sound pleasant, the participants will also be able to enjoy some perks, including private rooms and common areas that come complete with chairs, television sets, and exercise equipment. The subjects will also be served catered meals in the dining room, as further noted on the Fortune report, but if found to be infected, they won’t be able to leave the location until they test negative for the flu for two days.
The “Hotel Influenza” study is important because of the seriousness of the 2017-2018 flu season that had recently hit the United States. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that at least 172 children died from the flu this season, representing the largest death toll since the 2012-13 season took the lives of 171 children. People young and old are advised to get flu shots, though the efficacy of these vaccines may vary depending on the strain of flu.