Thursday, November 20, 2003

Experimental Ebola vaccine

So the Washington Post, in addition to boasting a slick new 20th Century-style Internet Homepage, also has the week's most unintentionally hilarious article. It seems that NIH has developed an experimental new Ebola vaccine; and although there are literally dozens of people in America, the National Institutes of Health have only been able to find TWO people willing to give it a test drive. I guess they are looking for an alternative to the old vaccine, which came in the form of a small metal tablet, or "bullet," that you would put into a gun -- the idea was that you would use it to shoot yourself in the brain, thus giving you a 100% effective defense against dying of Ebola.

But listen, I'm telling you, this article is brilliant from top to bottom. One of the two volunteers is a registered nurse (who has some of the best quotes in the article), and the other is a landscaper who basically had to be completely bullshitted in order to agree to coming in. The quotes are great -- from the doctors, who are all like "christ, it's just horrifying ebola hemmorhagic fever with a 70-90% mortality rate, i don't know why everyone freaks out about it so much," to the picture of one of the volunteers, who is looking at his newly-Ebolafied arm with an expression that says "I can not fucking believe i just did that. Welp, now I'm going to die." Oh -- and then there's my favorite part, where he discusses the consent form:

"There's nothing in there about 'You could end up bleeding to death,' " he said. "It's not like the polio vaccine," one version of which causes polio in rare cases instead of preventing it.

I'm laughing my ass off as I write this, and I can't imagine a reporter in the world who wouldn't be doing the same thing. This guy read the consent form, didn't see anything in it about a danger of exploding into a fine pink mist, so he was like "aiiight! Hook me up!" That is awesome. But if he had any sense of humor at all, he would have started faking symptoms within minutes of taking the know, like wiping his face with an olive oil-soaked rag, falling down, mashing a handful of maraschino cherries into his mouth, letting frothy drool spill down onto shirt, whatever, then leaping to his feet shouting "siiiike!!!"

Now I know this is question is going to produce a disgusted "uhh, doyyy" from anyone who has actual training in biology or virology, but how the hell do you test to see if the Ebola vaccine actually worked on the human subjects? Do you blast them in the face with a Super-Soaker filled with Ebola-fied seltzer? Do you give them one injection of Ebola vaccine, followed by an injection of Ebola? Or do you figure that if the vaccine doesn't kill them, then they're probably indestructible? I don't know, man. Leave me alone.