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Scientists Want To Pay You Thousands Of Dollars To Be Deliberately Infected With Whooping Cough

Would you volunteer? wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock

Researchers from Southampton University have a proposition for you: deliberately catch a bout of whooping cough and get paid £3,526 (over $3,800) – all in the name of science. 

The requirements: You must be 18-45 years old, a non-smoker, in good health and, oh you know, willing to live in an isolation unit for 17 days. 


The purpose of the study is to improve vaccines against pertussis, otherwise known as whooping cough. The respiratory tract infection is caused by a bacterium called Bordetella pertussis and can quickly spread from one person to the next. It is particularly dangerous to babies and infants.

The team will infect healthy participants with a low dose of pertussis and monitor their condition. While this will cause some of the volunteers to get sick, those who don’t are the ones the researchers are particularly keen to study. These lucky folk are either silent carriers or naturally immune to the infectious disease. 

"We want to know what's so special about these people and why we can't make them into silent carriers,” team lead Robert Read, director of the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre, told the BBC

For the study, they hope to get 35 volunteers who will allow the team to deliberately infect them. They will then spend 17 days in an isolation unit, with some minor procedures such as nasal and throat swabs performed throughout. 


The isolation units don’t seem half bad either – volunteers will have a private room with access to a recreational area, as well as meals, drinks, and entertainment. 

So what will you be getting into? Well, the symptoms for adults are relatively mild. Unless you’re one of the fortunate few who are immune, you’ll likely experience coughing, sneezing, runny nose, and a low fever. You may also have some diarrhea.

The true danger of whooping cough lies in passing the infection on to babies. Globally, it kills thousands a year – in 2015, there were 89,000 deaths due to the disease, according to estimates by the World Health Organization.

Of course, the researchers will give participants antibiotics at the end of the trial to clear up their infection.


The study is part of a £24 million research project partly funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Those interested can email

[H/T: BBC]


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