Sucheta Dalal :Wanted: 1800 volunteers for a free trip to Mexico Guatemala!
Sucheta Dalal

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Wanted: 1,800 volunteers for a free trip to Mexico, Guatemala!  

December 30, 2009

Wanted: 1,800 volunteers for free holiday packages to Mexico and Guatemala. All inclusive. Also on the cards: Free vacation in India! Yes, a US company Intercell is offering free holidays in Mexico and Guatemala, including airfare and accommodation, to tempt some 1,800 young people to test its drugs for one of the most common holiday afflictions—travellers' diarrhoea, reports PTI. 


In the ‘Trek Study’, willing backpackers who develop travellers' diarrhoea will be paid to attend a clinic and also injected with a new agent to see how they react, British daily ‘The Independent' has reported. 


The $1,500 holiday package includes stay in three-star hotels but travellers can choose where they go and what they eat and drink, provided they do not stray for more than three hours from any one of the centres at Mexico or Guatemala. Travellers are required to visit these centres for blood tests and provide stool samples if they develop an upset stomach.


Intercell's clinical director, Nigel Thomas, said, "We are looking for people who've already planned to go to Mexico or Guatemala and think this would add another interesting aspect. It is almost like going on a package holiday. 


"They will be met by a concierge who will take them to their hotel and arrange for them to give their first blood sample within 48 hours."


And, though not yet finalised, a second study is planned of travellers to India. Thomas Lingelbach, chief executive of Intercell, was quoted as saying, "We need to show the vaccine is effective in different geographical settings, as the bacteria that cause diarrhoea are different in different regions. 


"If we can show broad coverage against travellers' diarrhoea, we estimate we could get peak sales of $500 million a year in five to 10 years." 


However, the travellers' diarrhoea vaccine has already been tested on humans and an initial study with 170 American volunteers, who also travelled to Mexico and Guatemala, was encouraging. 


Half were given the vaccine and the other half a placebo, and results published in 'The Lancet' medical journal last year showed that the vaccine reduced the incidence of diarrhoea by 75%.

Yogesh Sapkale


-- Sucheta Dalal