26-Year-Old Man Volunteered To Drink ‘Dysentery Smoothie’ To Help Scientists Make A Vaccine

A 26-year-old man volunteered to drink a “dysentery smoothie” and contract life-threatening diarrhea, all to help scientists develop a vaccine for the illness. Jake Eberts drank a shot glass-sized beverage infused with shigella bacteria that he knew would likely give him dysentery. In fact, he ended up as one of the sickest of the 16 participants in the trial.

  1. Eberts was part of an 11-day inpatient vaccine trial. The trial took place at the University of Maryland and included 16 young, healthy adults. All participants took the drinkable shigella knowing they would likely become extremely ill. Half of the participants were given a vaccine while the others received nothing, though none knew which group they were in. Eberts found out pretty quickly, however, that he did not receive the vaccine.
  2. Eberts described “the worst eight hours of my life” after drinking the shot. While he was earning $7,000 for participating and helping with vital scientific research, the illness Eberts experienced afer taking his shot was challenging, o say the least. “I don’t want to make myself out to be Mother Teresa here — would not have done this for free. It’s a big ask to ask someone to get dysentery,” he told Insider. “The entire time, I was like, ‘Wow, this is an awful disease.’ And I just got really emotional, probably also because I was just delirious, about the thought of small children in the developing world dealing with this.”
  3. Dysentery kills so many people around the world. While many think of it as an outdated disease that’s been largely eradicated in the Western world, hundreds of thousands of children and older adults die every year from shigella. So far, there’s no vaccine to protect against the bacteria despite it being the second-leading cause of diarrhea death in the world. It’s contracted by drinking contaminated water or eating contaminated food that’s been in contact with infected waste.
  4. Eberts’ illness came on roughly 40 hours after he drank the “smoothie.” He woke up with cramps and chills and feeling just like you do when you have a standard “stomach bug.” However, things got very bad very quickly and he soon had a high fever, diarrhea, and bloody stool. “I truly felt like I could not move,” he said. Eberts added that the struggled to be able to get up and go to the bathroom or even get his vitals checked by the medical professionals overseeing the trial. “Every movement in the bathroom, to get up to wash my hands or to grab a paper towel, I would lie back down on the ground and just sit there for five minutes,” he recalled.
  5. Thankfully, nurses were able to get him back in good shape. They gave him liters full of rehydration solution and was eventually put on IV fluids and given ciprofloxacin, an antibiotic known to counteract the effects of the bacteria. He started to improve within four hours.
  6. While getting so ill wasn’t pleasant, Eberts wasn’t too worried. “I was exhausted and felt miserable, but I didn’t feel fear,” he said. “I knew this is something I signed up for, and it will pass, and I’m not going to die or anything. But even if I had been just at home and had somehow come across this, I would’ve been terrified because it was just awful. And the deterioration was so rapid.”

[H/T Insider]

Jennifer Still is a writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience. The managing editor of Bolde, she has bylines in Vanity Fair, Business Insider, The New York Times, Glamour, Bon Appetit, and many more. You can follow her on Twitter @jenniferlstill