Wanted: volunteers for free week-long holidays in Mexico

(Will be expected to spend days in hotel bathroom with very upset stomach)

Fancy a free holiday in Mexico, all expenses paid? Or perhaps Guatemala appeals? Flights and hotel accommodation up to the value of €1,600 (£1,400) are on offer for 900 volunteers who are prepared to test a remedy for one of the most common holiday afflictions – travellers' diarrhoea.

In a novel twist on the usual drug company trial in which volunteers are paid to attend a clinic and be injected with a new agent to see how they react, the "Trek Study" sponsored by Intercell, a US vaccine manufacturer, is instead despatching willing backpackers to a part of the world where the bacteria that cause runny tummies are rife.

Volunteers will stay in three-star hotels but can choose where they go and what they eat and drink, provided they do not stray more than three hours' travelling time from one of the centres in Mexico or Guatemala where they are required to attend for blood tests and to provide stool samples if they develop an upset stomach.

A second study is planned of travellers to India, for which recruitment has not yet started.

Thomas Lingelbach, chief executive of Intercell, said the company hoped to obtain a global licence for the product. "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 €500m a year in five to 10 years."

Drug trials were popular with students as a way of boosting meagre bank balances until the 2006 catastrophe in which six volunteers nearly died at Northwick Park Hospital in north-west London – and one was described by his girlfriend as looking "like the Elephant Man" – after a trial of a monoclonal antibody, TGN1412, went disastrously wrong.

That was a Phase 1 trial – the first time the drug had been tested in humans. 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 half a placebo, and results published in The Lancet medical journal last year showed it reduced the incidence of diarrhoea by 75 per cent.

Travellers' diarrhoea lasts on average for four to five days, involves 18 trips to the toilet and leaves sufferers dehydrated and debilitated. It blights millions of holidays every year with stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting. In The Lancet study, 21 per cent of those given the placebo had a moderate to severe attack of diarrhoea compared with 5 per cent of those who received the vaccine.

For the new study, volunteers aged 18 to 64 are being recruited in Germany as well as the UK and 200 of the total 1,800 sought in both countries have so far signed up, according to Intercell. The British study is being co-ordinated by the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in London and recruitment clinics have been established in Belfast, Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham, Reading and London. Mr Lingelbach said: "We don't expect any issues on the recruitment side. We want recruitment to pick up during the [Mexican] wet season – spring to summer in the UK – because incidence rates [of diarrhoea] are highest then."

The vaccine is delivered through a patch worn on the arm for six hours three weeks prior to travelling, followed by a booster dose delivered via a second patch one week before travelling. Volunteers are required to attend for blood tests and given a kit to collect stool samples.

Nigel Thomas, clinical director at Intercell, said: "We are looking for people who have already planned to go to Mexico or Guatemala and think this would add another interesting aspect. We cover their expenses – flights and accommodation – nothing beyond that.

"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. We need them to agree to be co-operative. Everyone has heard of travellers' diarrhoea."

Dr Thomas agreed that results of the study could be imperilled if volunteers chose to eat only in five-star hotels. "If a traveller is interested in the country they will end up eating outside hotel restaurants," he insisted.

Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    UNIX Application Support Analyst- Support, UNIX, London

    £45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Application Support Analyst-...

    Senior Application Support -Fidessa, Charles River, Oracle, FIX

    £50000 - £65000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Application Support - Fide...

    Product Specialist - (Application Support, UNIX, SQL)

    £45000 - £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Product Specialist - (Application...

    Technical Specialist - (Application Support, UNIX, SQL)

    £50000 - £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Technical Specialist - (Applicati...

    Day In a Page

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home