“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.