Would you do it for money?
Twenty-six-year-old Jake Eberts agreed to drink a life-threatening concoction of a cloudy, salty liquid containing Shigella bacteria, which are usually found in the “poop” of infected people – all in the name of science.
He swallowed a quantity of liquid in a shot glass, knowing it would produce a miserable case of dysentery for research reasons, he told Insider.
Eberts was one of 16 healthy young adults taking part in the 11-day hospital trial at the University of Maryland to test the effectiveness of a Shigella vaccine and received a salary in return.
Eberts said symptoms from the lawsuit resulted in the “worst eight hours of my life” – but he would do it again if paid. For this trial, the university said he won over $7,000.
“I don’t want to impersonate Mother Teresa here – I wouldn’t have done this for free. It’s a big ask to ask someone to have dysentery,” Eberts told Insider when he left the study. “All the time I was like, ‘Wow, this is a horrible disease.’ And I got very emotional, probably also because I was delirious, at the idea of young children in the developing world taking care of it.
According to Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention, the Shigella bacterium causes 600,000 deaths a year worldwide. Although there is no vaccine available against the bacterium that causes misery, it is the second leading cause of diarrhea death, with the No. 1 killer being rotavirus, for which vaccines are available.
Shigella disease is often caused by drinking contaminated water, eating improperly prepared food, or coming into contact with a person’s infected stool.
the Pasteur Institute in France is working on a vaccine that was first tested in Israel.
Eberts was part of a Maryland study conducting additional research. Scientists are also collecting data from young children in Kenya who may come into contact with the bacteria, although they are not given lethal concoctions.
If all goes well in the current phase two trials and the vaccine is effective and tolerated, it could be tested on a larger scale. But if the vaccine doesn’t provide at least 50% protection against serious disease, University of Maryland trial director Dr. Wilbur Chen told Insider, “Then we’ll have a vaccine that really fails. , unfortunately. He hopes for 70% protection.
Eberts believed he had unfortunately received placebo injections as part of the unvaccinated group in the trial, as he had not reacted noticeably to the injections – at first.
Unfortunately for him, he ended up having one of the worst cases of dysentery.
His symptoms began about 40 hours after drinking the bacteria, with cramps and chills at first. Then, it quickly took a turn for the worse. He had a fever of 103 degrees, diarrhea and bloody stools.
“I really felt like I couldn’t move,” Eberts said, calling basic daily movements like going to the bathroom a “Herculean effort.” “Every movement in the bathroom, to get up to wash my hands or to grab a paper towel, I would lay back on the floor and sit there for five minutes.”
The nurses gave him gallons of rehydration solution — or “sad Gatorade,” as Eberts called it — which was a sweet and salty solution, with no delicious flavor or color, meant to keep him functioning. Eventually he was given the antibiotic ciprofloxacin, and within four hours he began to improve, going from ‘death’s doorstep’ to feeling more alive with the ability to walk and talk ‘with a little effort”.
“I was exhausted and felt miserable, but I wasn’t scared,” he said. “I knew it was something I signed up for, and it will pass, and I’m not going to die or anything. But even if I was just at home and stumbled upon it, “One way or another, I would have been terrified, because it was just awful. And the deterioration was so rapid.
“If I got the vaccine, that’s really bad news for the vaccine,” he continued.
Because people with shigellosis can infect other people, trial participants were forced to stay indoors and eat alone for the duration of the 11-12 day study. Even using the toilet was a multi-step process, involving a special toilet “cap”, an accompanying nurse and bleach.
Eberts had to relieve himself in the toilet cap, place it in a biohazard bag, and carry it down the hall to researchers who would extract samples from it. Once the nurses had taken what they needed for the study, he poured the rest of his bodily waste down the toilet and sprayed it with bleach, waiting five minutes before flushing it.
Although a grueling process, collecting waste from patients played a vital role in testing how the vaccine worked, as stool, urine and blood measurements helped researchers determine the type of immune response produced by the vaccine, Chen said.
The scientists analyzed anti-Shigella IgA antibodies in the different feces, recording the exact amount and type of cytokines present in the patients’ stools.
“It’s a way for us to be able to learn more about the protective mechanisms,” Chen continued.
When in intense isolation, Eberts used his time effectively. Between fighting bacteria and recovering, he’s raised more than $24,000 for the water projectthat provides clean, safe water to communities around the world.
“Having had this absolutely horrible disease – and recovered fairly quickly, thanks to access to medical care – I would really, really like to use my 15 minutes of Twitter fame to help prevent it elsewhere,” he wrote. in the description of the fundraiser.
He documented his experience on Twitter, starting the day before the trial. “Tomorrow I will be deliberately infected with dysentery and kept in a quarantine facility for 11 days as part of a Phase IIc vaccine clinical trial,” he wrote. “It sounds dark, but I assure you that I am extremely excited to share this journey with everyone.”
Following Eberts’ barrage of live tweets, Chen said the center had “20 or 30 people who signed up with interest.”
“I’ve spent my career trying to solve this problem, and it’s always a challenge trying to find willing volunteers,” Chen said. “He was just sharing from the heart, and I think people liked that.”
When asked, “Why the hell would you do that?” Eberts wrote on Twitter, “3 reasons: 1, to help the less fortunate and advance modern medicine (read: to be devious and self-righteous); 2, I get enough money to cover the rent for the rest of the year; 3, I get paid even though I don’t have dysentery.
Although Eberts cannot participate in another Shigella trial because he has already been exposed to the bacteria, he is willing to try a similar vaccine “challenge”.
“Some people go to soup kitchens to get their charity fix. Maybe that’s my way,” he said.