Volunteers are being offered a free trip in return for taking part in a drugs trial
It must be the only travel agent that actually hopes its holidaymakers will eat something dodgy. A drugs firm is offering free trips to Mexico for nearly 1,000 volunteers – on condition that they try out a new remedy for upset stomachs, and come in for tests if they do fall ill.
The manufacturer is hoping to cash in on a potential multi-million pound market by developing a vaccine for that common holiday affliction, traveller’s diarrhea.
Guinea pigs will have to take part in a trial of the medication, and in return the company will pay for flights to Mexico or Guatemala and a week’s accommodation.
The only conditions are that they don’t stray more than three hours from one of the centres where they will be required for blood tests, and to provide stool samples if they fall ill.
Drugs firm Intercell hopes the trial will confirm initial findings that the vaccine significantly reduces the chances of contaminated food or drink leading to a nasty bout of Montezuma’s revenge.
The eye-catching offer has already been inundated by volunteers, particularly hard-up students looking for a cheap holiday.
But the euphoria is likely to be tempered by the knowledge that they will have to take an experimental drug – a worrying prospect for many after a trial at Northwick Park Hospital in North West London went catastrophically wrong in 2006, almost claiming the lives of six volunteers.
Diarrhea vaccine is administered through an arm patch
In this case, however, the vaccine has already been tested on humans, indeed of 170 American volunteers who also travelled to Mexico and Guatemala, tests found the incidence of diarrhea was cut by three quarters.
Travellers’ diarrhea is one of the most common and debilitating illnesses experienced by holidaymakers, particularly in the developing world.
Attacks last four to five days, involve 18 trips to the toilet and cause dehydration, stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting.
A successful vaccine could be worth £500million a year – making Intercell’s apparently insanely generous offer entirely understandable.
It is seeking 900 volunteers via the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in London and clinics around the country.
They will receive the vaccine through a patch worn on the arm for six hours three weeks prior to travelling, followed by a booster dose one week before they set off.
In return, flights and three-star accommodation will be provided, but volunteers will have to attend blood tests and will be given a kit to collect stool samples if they do fall ill.
Nigel Thomas, clinical director of Intercell, said: ‘We are looking for people who have already planned to go to Mexico or Guatemala and think this would add another interesting aspect.
‘We cover their expenses – flights and accommodation – nothing beyond that.
‘It is almost like going on a package holiday. They will be met by a concierge who will take them to their hotel and arrange for them to give their first blood sample within 48 hours.’
Similar trips are planned to India – another destination notorious for stomach upsets – and the vaccine could be available within five years if it is proven to be safe and effective.
Via Daily Mail