Men's Health


Most hotels charge you to stay, but Hotel Influenza will not be like most hotels. Guests at this newly renovated, soon-to-open facility in St. Louis will check in for about ten days, at no charge, and stay in one of 24 private rooms, each equipped with desks, Wi-Fi, and a flat-screen TV. There will be a lounge, food, and even exercise facilities. And not only will all this hospitality be completely free, but the carefully chosen group of guests will actually get paid to stay there: Each will receive a check for about $3,000. All they’ll have to do is volunteer to get sick.

Or maybe not. Researchers from St. Louis University, one of nine federally funded Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Units racing to find a universal flu vaccine, will most likely greet guests at what is technically called the Extended Stay Research Unit by administering a flu shot. Then they’ll give the lucky guinea pigs a new experimental flu vaccine, give the unlucky ones a placebo, and then stick flu virus up their nostrils.

Over the next ten days, the guests will be monitored for all manner of flu-like symptoms, every runny nose or sleepless night a measure of the vaccine’s effectiveness. Some of them will likely feel fine at checkout. Some will probably feel like hell. The researchers are there to figure out who gets sick and why, says Daniel Hoft, M.D., Ph.D., director of the university’s Division of Infectious Diseases, Allergy and Immunology. Dr. Hoft is one of the architects of the Hotel Influenza research, and the facility will enable his team to do human challenge studies with a smaller number of volunteers and at less cost than traditional vaccine experiments.

“In a traditional flu study, we vaccinate people and see if their immune systems respond by creating antibodies that fight flu,” wrote Dr. Hoft

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