Free Mexican holidays offered to diarrhea vaccine guinea pigs

VIENNA, Austria — Intercell is offering free flights and hotel accommodation up to the value of about $1,500 to 900 volunteers being recruited in the United Kingdom and Germany who are prepared to test a remedy for one of the most common holiday afflictions — travelers’ diarrhea.

In the "Trek Study," willing backpackers will be paid to attend a clinic and then receive a needle-free vaccine patch to see how they react, England’s Telegraph reported Dec. 29.

"We are looking for people who have already planned to go to Mexico or Guatemala and think this would add another interesting aspect,” Intercell's clinical director, Nigel Thomas, told the United Kingdom's Independent newspaper.

"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."

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 centers 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 travelers’ to India.

If approved, it will be the first vaccine delivered with a patch and to prevent travelers’ diarrhea.

Intercell CEO Thomas Lingelbach told the Independent that the company hoped to obtain a global license 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 travelers’ diarroea we estimate we could get peak sales of 500m a year in five to 10 years."

This 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.

The vaccine will initially be used in travelers and military personnel. In addition, children in the developing world are also a critical target for such a vaccine because diarrhea is linked to E. coli.