20 year old medical student participates in an extraordinary research project at Haukeland University Hospital, where healthy students voluntarily get infected with E. coli bacteria. Then students’ stool samples are evaluated for developing a vaccine against the disease.
The bacteria causes diarrhea and stomach cramps and are usually harmless to people in Western countries. But for children in developing countries, it can lead to acute dehydration and eventually malnutrition. If the children do not receive treatment immediately, they can die.
Talking to TV2, project researcher Halvor Sommerfelt says that many children in developing countries still die from diarrheal disease, approximately 1.5 to 2 million children annually. This project aims to help developing a vaccine against one of the main causes of diarrhea among children in developing countries.
So far, 24 volunteers participated in the project, which is a collaboration between several countries, including the U.S. and Norway.
Professor Anne Berit Guttormsen says they were quite nervous at the beginning and discussed the idea ethically for a long time.
– It sounds very strange to drink bacteria and cause illness yourself. But we, as medical students, have an interest in medicine and being in hospital appeals to us, says volunteer student Tony Elvegaard.
The professors also though it would be difficult to recruit people but they got amazed how many people actively involved in the project.
It’s all about making vaccines for children in poor countries. Being involved in such a project provides the opportunity to conduct research on the bacterium, and it is obviously very rewarding, says Elvegard.