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Pre-2008 Posts

“Volunteers” to be Paid $2-4,000 for Catching Malaria from Mosquitoes


“Volunteers” between the ages of 25 and 45 who are willing to allow themselves to be bitten by five malaria-infected mosquitoes, to develop malaria, then be treated for it, will be paid between $2,000 and $4,000 by Seattle Biomedical Research Institute.  SBRI is attempting to develop new drugs and vaccines to fight malaria, which kills about a million people a year, most of them in Africa.    Participants in the research will be asked to allow five mosquitoes carrying the deadliest form of malaria to bite them.  When they begin to develop symptoms, within eight or nine days, they will be hospitalized and treated.  Scientists involved in the planning say that the experience will not be life-threatening, that most people will simply feel as though they  have the flu for a couple of days, and that 900 people have already participated in similar trials and no one has died or has had to be hospitalized aside from participation in the actual study.

Who would allow themselves, I wonder, to be infected with a deadly form of malaria?  To watch as mosquitoes carrying malaria bit them?  Would rich people volunteer to participate?  Somehow I don’t think so.  I think it is going to be the very poor who are going to “volunteer.”  Do scientists know what the long-term consequences of being infected with malaria will be?  No, they can’t know.   What they can count on is that poor people who need money will believe them when they say the experiment is completely safe.




27 thoughts on ““Volunteers” to be Paid $2-4,000 for Catching Malaria from Mosquitoes

  1. Malaria has been eradicated from most industrialized countries. Millions of the poorest of the poor people in the entire world will benefit the most from the sacrifice a handful relatively wealthy Americans will make. Many people talk about helping the impoverished people around the world, but this gives our own poor the opportunity to actually do something about it. I think it sounds great.

    Posted by Roland | March 9, 2008, 8:36 pm
  2. Hi Roland,

    It gives *you* the opportunity to do something about it.

    *You* volunteer.

    Then come back and tell us how “great” you thought it was.

    Is it just a coincidence that you’re male? Oh, right, I thought it was.


    Posted by Mary Sunshine | March 9, 2008, 11:07 pm
  3. Roland is a hack for big pharmacology companies. Anyone want to bet on it?

    “You poor people here, think of the poor people there! Your poverty is far superior to their poverty, therefore you should ignore the wealthy in your own country who would not dare sacrifice for the poor here, much less there, so you must do it for the good of the fat cat’s pocket’s, I mean for the good of the world.”

    Look Roland, there’s a penny.

    Posted by ekittyglendower | March 9, 2008, 11:12 pm
  4. It’s a double-edged sword. We need other solutions and preventions – we can only promote “$10 bednets to protect families in Africa and Asia from malaria” for so long. I was helping a youth group plan their 3rd bednet fundraiser and one of the teens wanted to know how long they’d have to keep raising money. How long before malaria wouldn’t be a problem any more? I didn’t have an answer.

    And yet, I do see how it could seem that the American poor (and probably a few college students) are being preyed upon. For advancements to be made, there will need to be testing, and other than money, what incentives can be offered that anyone would find attractive? Not many would volunteer just for the satisfaction of furthering research unless they have something invested in finding a cure (like the researchers working on vaccines). I also see how just the word malaria would spark enough fear in some that they wouldn’t volunteer no matter how much money or how many guarantees.

    Now would I volunteer? I’m still debating that.

    Posted by Nicole | March 9, 2008, 11:54 pm
  5. It doesn’t sound great, it sounds totally ********. Why? Because there are already MILLIONS of people with malaria and millions more about to get malaria. Why not set this research up in a malaria infested country? Screen people until you find some whos malaria is in the early stages needed for the research. Treat them and pay them for their time and trouble.

    I can’t see why we need to deliberately infect people with a disease.

    But Roland, you do sound very noble in your post. When will you be signing up for your malaria? Will you donate your payment to make the whole thing even more noble?

    Posted by Arietty | March 10, 2008, 1:09 am
  6. Nah, Roland isn’t a pharmaceutical hack. He’s one of my adult sons, in here giving me a hard time. ;p

    Posted by womensspace | March 10, 2008, 1:19 am
  7. To be fair, the articles about this do say that many of the scientists working on this probably will participate in this research (i.e., they are going to get malaria). This is common–when you read about studies and research of this type, often researchers become guinea pigs for their own research, and sometimes they get really sick, and occasionally they die. I read a lot about malaria in African countries recently, when I was writing about AIDS in Africa, and it is horrific, and yes, we need to find treatments. But historically, the guinea pigs for this kind of research, these studies, have been marginalized people– poor people, women, people of color, mentally ill people, people in prison. Usually in these studies, there is at least some acknowledgement of the questionable ethics, in the form of giving half the people placebos and half the people pills and not telling anybody who is getting what. But there aren’t any placebo mosquitos, and I think there is a specific reason why these specific mosquitos have to pass on the malaria. Something like, the deadly strain of malaria they carry was cultivated by scientists in a way that it can’t be resistant to antibiotics.

    As an aside, I sure hope nobody ever, say, messes up with those mosquitos and lets them get out of wherever they are to fly around downtown! :/

    I don’t know if what Arietty describes is possible– probably not, because you probably have to have a lot of equipment, laboratory availability, etc., that is only available certain places.

    But I can’t stand this idea of offering $2-4K to people for doing this. To poor people, single moms, that sounds like a huge amount of money. In the same way I hate the way poor people donate blood plasma to make money. The bodies of poor people matter as much as anybody’s bodies. Even though I could sure use $2-4K, no way in heaven would I ever sign up for this! It would feel horribly masochistic and even suicidal to me, watching mosquitos injecting me with deadly poison.

    Posted by womensspace | March 10, 2008, 1:32 am
  8. Ugh, I hate having my post edited. I would rather if I have used a word deemed not PC enough that it was bleeped out with asterisks: ***** rather than have words I never wrote used to replace it. I don’t mind being told “we don’t want to hear that word so we are covering it up” but I don’t care to have actual words I didn’t write included as though I had written them, as a replacement.

    It might seem like a small and inconsequential thing in the case of this post but it is alarming to me.

    Posted by Arietty | March 10, 2008, 1:50 am
  9. I used to donate plasma as much as I could until I quit going because often my iron level was too low to give– I’d always be gambling on if my iron would be high enough, wait up to two hrs. and often be sent away because my iron was too low.

    This is the wierd thing– now about ten years after doing this, I get weird pains in the insides of my arms, where they used to inject the needles. These were big needles. At the time I was unbothered by the needles and I had pretty good veins to take them, but, now I wonder if that is why I get these random pains in my arms? It’s this weird pain, but the strange thing is it didn’t start happening til maybe two years ago so it could be unrelated. It is right where the needles used to go though.
    I dunno….?

    However these type things are hard for people to refuse when they need money. Although donating plasma is one thing, being injected w/malaria is another!
    If my plasma-giving has anything to do w/the pains in my arms, (they come about once per month it seems) I wonder what a person injected w/malaria and then treatment could expect? :/
    Pretty risky. :/

    Posted by Jeyoani | March 10, 2008, 2:07 am
  10. Fair enough, Arietty, I replaced the word with asterisks, not because it isn’t PC enough but because it could be hurtful to some reading.

    For what it’s worth, not directing this towards you, specifically, but towards everyone, moderating my blog has become a huge issue for me. There are a lot of comments I don’t let through because I just do not have the energy or time to deal with the problems they would cause. This means that a lot of good stuff does not get approved, because the good stuff is alongside the stuff that would cause a lot of problems. My choices are to spam these comments or to edit them. If I edit them, I run the risk of causing women to feel the way you do, Arietty, or of really alienating or offending good women, good people. If I spam comments, ditto. If I approve them, DITTO! Do you (generic, general “you”) see the problem I am having here. I cannot please all of the people all of the time. Many times I have approved comments hoping they would be read generously and people wouldn’t get offended, only to have a huge mess to straighten out because people were offended. Or, I spammed something and the writer felt censored.

    So, I can only do the best I can do. The alternative, again, is to turn off comments and not allow them. I don’t want to do that, because so many of the comments in here are really great and the dialogue is important to me.

    I’m not expecting anybody to do anything but what they are doing– I am saying that when a blogger begins to get the volume of comments I get, moderation is hugely time-consuming and is going to be a problem for various commenters from time to time, and there is no perfect solution to that problem that I know of.

    Posted by womensspace | March 10, 2008, 2:09 am
  11. Thank you for the asterisks Heart!! (This must be the first time I’ve ever thanked someone for censoring me, LOLOL). I appreciate being heard.

    (Just as a btw I decided one day to reclaim that word now that it is no longer used, in this country at least, to describe intellectual disability. I feel it adds the right note of disparagement which is not present in many synonyms. Yes I like to convey a little disparagement when replying to certain ideas.)

    Being one of those “L” people I would be inclined to let all those posts that will cause misunderstanding go through and just step back and let people respond as they will. One advantage to blogs is even the most vile fight that breaks out in comments is eventually replaced by new blog posts and new discussions. I understand though that you hope for great dialogue here and you make choices to further that.

    Posted by Arietty | March 10, 2008, 2:20 am
  12. Nicole: I was helping a youth group plan their 3rd bednet fundraiser and one of the teens wanted to know how long they’d have to keep raising money. How long before malaria wouldn’t be a problem any more? I didn’t have an answer.


    I’ve thought of this so often– trying to send these mosquito nets being like putting a finger in a huge dam full of holes. 😦

    Jeyoani — :”””” ( I wouldn’t doubt it at all if the pains in your arms have something to do with those needles. Who knows, maybe there is nerve damage there. That’s horrible, and I have known so, so many young people who donate plasma, or have at some point to get by.



    Arietty, you would not want to see what would happen if I did not moderate comments. If it were just a matter of strong opinions, that would be one thing, but it’s a lot worse than that.

    Posted by womensspace | March 10, 2008, 2:48 am
  13. Neither my race, income, family situation or my gender plays a role in me being an organ donor, which doesn’t pay at all (but outside of a few isolated cases, doesn’t seem to raise the risk of death either).

    I’d probably volunteer for this if it was in my area, assuming I could get time off of work to do so. While I wouldn’t mind the money, I’d do it because I believe that it is worth the risk for the benefit of humanity as a whole.

    Posted by anonymous_person | March 10, 2008, 2:51 am
  14. I’m an organ donor too, but I don’t think that’s really comparable. I will not have any need for my organs after I’m dead!

    Herre’s what I think. I think the head honchoes at Burroughs Wellcome, one of whom is on the board of SBRI, and executives of other drug companies that stand to benefit greatly from the development of these drugs ought to be the guinea pigs for them. And those invested hugely in these companies as well. Say, once someone has bought X number of shares of stock, they are required to participate in X number of these studies. If they are sure their company/the companyies they invest in are ethical and safe and beyond reproach, let them prove it by sticking their arm out and getting a few mosquito bites for the cause.

    Posted by womensspace | March 10, 2008, 3:09 am
  15. Will these people be getting free medical care for any malaria related problems for the rest of their lives? I certainly hope so.

    Posted by Arietty | March 10, 2008, 3:18 am
  16. Looking at the press releases, it seems that the William & Melinda Gates foundation is one of the larger donors for this study.

    Considering Bill’s views on how capitalism fails at global healthcare, I wouldn’t automatically assume that this is a handout to big pharm.

    Posted by anonymous_person | March 10, 2008, 8:02 am
  17. anonymous_person, I don’t think this is a handout to big pharm, I just know big pharm stands to gain tremendously from it, which is not the same thing as a handout, which is still troublesome. Like I said, let’s see the CEOs of Burroughs Wellcome lining up to stick their arms out there and let the mosquitoes bite them. They should be willing to if they they have faith in their own companies’ products.

    Posted by womensspace | March 10, 2008, 4:32 pm
  18. It’s not like the Gates Foundation takes a comprehensive, antipharma/antibusiness view on globalization and health:,0,6827615.story

    Posted by funnie | March 10, 2008, 4:38 pm

    (as of a year ago, Gates Found had between $100M and $1 BILLION dollars invested in Abbott and Merck, each)

    Posted by funnie | March 10, 2008, 4:40 pm
  20. So between 3% and .3% of the Gates foundation is invested in Abbott and Merck each, if one considers the foundation’s current endowment.

    If one considers Buffet’s pledged amount, that figure drops to between 1% and .1%.

    It doesn’t sound as scary when you look at it in proportion.

    Posted by anonymous_person | March 11, 2008, 1:05 am
  21. “Neither my race, income, family situation or my gender plays a role in me being an organ donor, which doesn’t pay at all (but outside of a few isolated cases, doesn’t seem to raise the risk of death either).”

    FYI, actually there are ways to get paid for organ doning, even here in the U.S. They’re really not that hard to find.

    Would you want your family, friends, or lover to participate in this malaria study? It’s going to appeal to those who A) need money and/or B) don’t care about themselves and/or want to self destruct.

    Posted by anonymous_person #2 | March 11, 2008, 1:06 pm
  22. I’m not trying to scare anyone.

    I am simply pointing out the inherent flaw in using the presence of Gates Foundation as some indicator that a particular project is internally or externally morally consistent with rights-based global health and rights principles, rather than with capitalist definitions of same.

    Posted by funnie | March 11, 2008, 3:44 pm
  23. I’m an organ donor. When I was a poor college student, I sold plasma for money. I’ve also given blood for free. I’ve never worked for a pharmaceutical company, nor am I happy with the goals of the pharmaceutical industry.

    The pharmaceutical industry focuses most of its efforts on treating symptoms, because they are generally much, much more profitable than making cures. In this case, we have work being done to create actual cures for people who need them and who will not get help from their own governments and scientists. Why discourage this? And what incentive would you give volunteers to do this other than money? Hugs? Warm wishes? Good luck finding your volunteers. And if no one volunteers for the joy of helping the poor in other countries, and the study fails, is this a good thing?

    Finally, if I did not have two daughters to provide for, I would probably take this risk. Granted, the risk is probably very, very small, but I’m certain my life insurance company would look down on taking this kind of risk.

    At the end of the day, I am willing to be that the largest demographic to take advantage of this program are the same people who are the largest demographic for minimum-wage jobs: 18-25 year olds, aka college students. While many of them are technically poor, most of them are necessarily poor – they are just starting their adult lives. In fact, I’m willing to believe that many of these 18-25 year olds will bank the money they receive for participating in this study, and use it to elevate their status.

    Posted by Roland | March 14, 2008, 1:57 pm
  24. this is part of the reason i decided against going into research science. i do not want to inflict harm on someone, even in the name of science. how can the scientests be sure that the people who get malaria will not be traumatized? will they get follow-up counseling? if so, how long will the counseling last? long enough to make sure that the study didn’t cause permanent harm in someone’s life? i doubt it.

    a somewhat related story:

    Posted by rad | March 14, 2008, 8:09 pm
  25. Ro says:
    “At the end of the day, I am willing to be that the largest demographic to take advantage of this program are the same people who are the largest demographic for minimum-wage jobs: 18-25 year olds, aka college students. While many of them are technically poor, most of them are necessarily poor – they are just starting their adult lives. In fact, I’m willing to believe that many of these 18-25 year olds will bank the money they receive for participating in this study, and use it to elevate their status.”

    I doubt it’s going to be college students. My bet is it’ll be low-income to no-income people (of whatever ages) who struggle w/addictions. Especially if they are single and/or estranged from family, and/or homeless.
    That’s the demographic.

    I think I can safely assert that college students mainly only donate (well, sell) plasma, sperm, or eggs–or participate in easier test studies which, many, you don’t even have to take pills for.

    Fwiw right now you can make a lot of money off your plasma if you were ever vaccinated against anthrax.

    I know when I went to community college at 19/20 I could never get anyone to donate plasma w/me and I was the queen plasma recruiter.
    (Ok I lie, one friend agreed to go-he only went one time. I went 2 to 4 times per wk for over a year.)

    I’m saying if you’re going to college you’re generally not *that* desperate that you’d do this malaria thing.

    Now how they could get this study done and keep decent and ethical while doing so is another issue. I think basically though they should pay more, no.1, (like 4,000 not 2 to 4,000–I bet most only get 2,000) but more importantly, like Arietty says, definitely all participants should get free health care (across the board) the rest of their lives. THAT would be a decent thank you for being so generous in aiding fellow humans beings and the scientific community.

    The thing is the medical community can and should help malaria victims in Africa and maintain respect for the lives of people they are testing on in U.S. Or at least they should.

    No one should have to be the sacrificial lamb. At least promise the lamb they get lifelong consideration after their gamble w/their own life which helps other people.
    That’s just called decency.

    Posted by Jeyoani | March 15, 2008, 1:02 am
  26. woops I mean per month, not year!

    Posted by Jeyoani | March 15, 2008, 1:03 am
  27. Large chunks of money are AWESOME to elevate your status, and who wouldn’t want this, sure, but college students, though young, are not so careless about their lives-they’re usually hopeful w/alot of plans of how great their future will be.

    I remember at 18-25 I toyed w/the idea of selling a kidney but I was too caring about my life to actually really think about it. (Anyway I knew it was illegal to sell organs.)

    This subject is interesting. On the side, everyone see “Maria Full of Grace ” if you haven’t. It’s *really* good, and about the risks some South Americans take with their bodies to enter the U.S. and/or make alot of money , swallowing and transporting wrapped drugs in their stomachs which can open and end their lives.

    I consider people to really, *REALLY* now, have to *need* something, in general, to take these life risks. Whether it’s a chance for a better life and bettering that of your impoverished family (in the case of those in developing countries who will carry drugs in their stomachs) , or, the disregard of your own life due to addiction and the need for money to feed the addiction. This malaria study doesn’t fall under the category of “young crazy college kids” thing to do. I just don’t think so.
    College kids tend to have something in their mind they want that they must be alive to obtain. Anyway only 2 to 4,000? –You get 6,000 at least (I’ve seen up to 12,000) -for being a sperm or egg donor.
    College kids want gain (*real* gain) , not moderate gain with attending possible pain. Well — this applies to most who aren’t in desperate situations.

    Posted by Jeyoani | March 15, 2008, 1:26 am

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