As with SARS-CoV-2, there was a rush to learn as much as possible as soon as the Spanish flu broke out. In Boston, doctors took measures that today would be unethical and illegal.
Unlike covid-19, young adults were the age group most affected by gripe Spanish. In an attempt to learn more about the disease, MJ Rosenau and JJ Keegan offered detainees at Deer Island military prison in Boston a risky proposition.
According to the IFL Science, if prisoners were willing to be deliberately infected by the virus and survive, they would be forgiven e released.
Some detainees would be injected with infected lung tissue from sick or deceased patients, while in others, mucus removed from critically ill patients would be placed in the nose and throat. In other phases of the experiment, scientists would inject blood from patients into healthy prisoners, to see if it spread by infectious microorganisms in the blood.
About 300 detainees lined up on this dangerous adventure, desperate for a judicial pardon. Of these volunteers, 62 were selected to participate in the trials.
Even after infected patients coughed in the face and mouth of some prisoners, none was infected. The only person who contracted the disease was a doctor involved in the trials, who died shortly after contracting the virus.
The likely explanation is that prisoners had already been exposed to the disease a few weeks earlier, having acquired natural immunity. As they ended up surviving, the volunteers received a judicial pardon and were eventually released.
It is estimated that, during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, between 20 and 50 million people died worldwide.
Liliana Malainho, ZAP //