Sometimes for the sake of testing a medicine for a disease, scientists have to recruit groups of volunteers ready to put their lives in danger for the sake of everyone's good. Of course, most often the experimental pay some financial compensation for possible negative consequences. The Norwegian researchers decided on an extremely dangerous experiment: they suggested infecting volunteers with deadly parasites-trematode worms that cause schistosomiasis. How do you think, how much does science estimate such a risk for health?
Schistosomiasis is a parasitic tropical disease caused by trematode worms from the genus Schistosoma, from where the name of the disease comes from. After the parasites get into the body of the carrier (most often the infection occurs through the water), the dermatitis begins in the latter, which leads to fever, severe intoxication, intestinal damage, urogenital organs and other unpleasant consequences. The disease is so severe and dangerous that up to 200,000 people die every year from it. The risk of infection by parasites is experienced in 52 tropical countries, which makes the search for the most effective medicine for schistosomiasis extremely important for science.
Today, the preparation of praziquantel is used to fight parasites – it has long been on the list of vital and essential medicines. Praziquantel enhances the permeability of helminth parasite cell membranes to calcium, which eventually leads to their paralysis and death. Also, the drug makes worms more vulnerable to the host's immune system, as well as to the digestive enzymes of the gastrointestinal tract. Even though praziquantel has been shown to be highly effective against trematodes, scientists do not stop looking for new ways to fight parasites.
The staff at the Leiden Medical Center recruited a group of 17 volunteers who agreed to be infected with dangerous worms. So scientists plan to observe the course of the disease and, perhaps, find new even more effective and safe ways of treating it. The body of each volunteer will become an incubator for 20 worm larvae for the entire duration of the experiment, which will last 12 weeks. Subjects are allowed to live at home and lead a familiar lifestyle, but they must return to the laboratory every 7 days for a complete examination.
Of course, everything is not as bad as it might seem from the very beginning. Participants in the experiment will be infected exclusively with male worms, which will eliminate the multiplication of parasites in the body of the carrier. After all, the rapid multiplication of parasites makes schistosomiasis so severe and difficult to cure. However, even with minimizing risks, not all scientists are confident that the subjects at the end of the study will be cured of the disease and killed in their bodies of all parasites. For the fact that the subjects put their health in jeopardy, each of them will receive 1,000 euros compensation. A mere trifle, if you think about the possible consequences.