Want to make big bucks quick? The secret to getting three grand in two weeks? The answer is poo. I just fi nished a fortnight-long clinical trial investigating enteric fever (that’s typhoid to you) and I am £3,640 the better for it.
The procedure is simple. You are infected with either Salmonella enterica typhi or paratyphi, and for the next 14 days you go to hospital, hand in stool samples, and have blood taken. Occasionally you drool into a test tube. You keep your shit (yes, literally) in the fridge in a little cooler bag and notify your housemates that they really don’t want to be stealing anything from your shelf. You can’t make food for anyone or let anyone eat your faeces, but they didn’t mention any limitations on blowjobs.
Yes, I did have to sign a piece of paper to confirm that I understood I may die, but so what? I had one day spent sweating in bed, and then had to come home early from a hip’n’hoppin’ Cowley house party because my back hurt and I felt like a pensioner. Other than that, there was not much of an impact on my life. I mastered the art of timing my coffee-drinking to my loo breaks so that the nurse would exclaim ‘Hot off the press!’ with jubilation. The crooks of my elbows looked like heroin colanders. I got the quads of a champion from cycling to Headington every day.
Typhoid and paratyphoid are bacteria that have been rendered largely obsolete in countries with well-maintained modern plumbing. It represents a specific danger to children under the age of five, so the study is carried out by the paediatrics department of the Oxford Vaccine Group. You carry typhoid and paratyphoid in your gut, so the trial begins with an endoscopy, which is the opposite of a colonoscopy. You go into the JR at 7am and have a cable pushed down your throat, through your stomach and into your small intestine. 15 tissue samples are then taken from your gut lining (which you can’t feel). After the endoscopy, you have a 45-90 day period in which your gut recovers, and then you start the trial. It was probably the most unpleasant part of the whole thing – picture me foetal, sedated, retching sleepily over the clamp strapped around my head that keeps my mouth open for the cable.
On the challenge day – the day you get infected – they take a coke can’s worth of blood and make you do a bunch of shots out of a test tube. You get a funpack of a diary card and a crappy thermometer that takes about five minutes to read your temperature. You record your temperature twice a day. Simple. As soon as you start showing symptoms they start you on a two-week course of antibiotics that they know will clear you. This study has been going since 2009 and in 173 participants, they have never had a single hospitalisation for severe symptoms.
The worst part is probably your friends’ reactions. It is a legal requirement to tell your household, but of course word gets out when they bitch about it amongst themselves. You get comments at formal hall shadowed by a shake of the head and a ‘tut-tut’ of “She’s put a value on her body” and “I can’t believe you’d choose to have an endoscopy!” I even once got the accusation of “You’re not doing it for the good of humanity though, are you? You’re just doing it for the money” – of course I am. What do you expect? Or rather, I am humanity, and I’m doing it for my own good. I’m going to need seed capital if I’m going to save the world one day, you know. Better still is the introductory line, “This girl keeps her poo in the fridge!” – pause for the big reveal – “Because she has typhoid! On purpose!” And? For two weeks of pooing into a cup I walk away £3,000 richer and y’all can suck it.
And the best part? They’re still recruiting.