Infecting People with STDs was Once a U.S. Sponsored Project

This is a really shocking news from CNN.

The United States apologized Friday for a 1946-1948 research study in which people in Guatemala were intentionally infected with sexually transmitted diseases.

The study came to light recently when Wellesley College researcher Susan Reverby found the archived but unpublished notes from the project.

The scientific investigation, called the U.S. Public Health Service Sexually Transmitted Disease Inoculation Study of 1946-1948, aimed at determining the effectiveness of penicillin in treating or preventing syphilis after subjects were exposed to the disease. Gonorrhea and chancres were also studied. Penicillin was a relatively new drug at the time.

The tests were carried out on female commercial sex workers, prisoners in the national penitentiary, patients in the national mental hospital and soldiers. According to the study, more than 1,600 people were infected: 696 with syphilis, 772 with gonorrhea and 142 with chancres.


The good news is the U.S. claims its not involved in such abhorrent research practices anymore:

Today, the regulations that govern U.S.-funded human medical research prohibit these kinds of appalling violations.

One would hope so.

Since using humans as guinea pigs is not something new one would ponder how many researches like this one are there that we don’t know of. We know the Nazis did it but are there any countries nowadays that experimenting with human lives?


6 thoughts on “Infecting People with STDs was Once a U.S. Sponsored Project

  1. I read the preliminary paper reporting on Dr Reverby’s research, and it is worthwhile for those with a deeper interest in the topic.

    Essentially in medical research ethics there is pre- and post-Nuremberg (1948). Before Nuremberg the idea of informed consent of research subjects was basically non-existent and it was routine, including in the US to do research on prison inmates, the developmentally challenged, mentally ill, conscientious objectors to military service (starvation, cold tolerance, etc). The Nazi experiments were so horrendous that the results of the Nuremberg trials was to create a new view of ethical research. The Japanese also did horrendous experiments during WWII on POWs and conquered peoples, but they are largely eclipsed by the focus on the Nazi experiments.

    Research review boards in Western countries, and in internationally recognized institutions in other countries preclude abusive research or deception of the subject to the levels described in the Guatemala study. Big Pharma continues to test drugs in 3rd world countries, including Latin American ones. There are consent forms a mile long with fine print and legal mumbo jumbo that are “explained” and “signed”. The biggest problem is that when the drugs work well they are stopped at the end of the trial and people cannot afford to buy them. The same happens in the US where signing on to a research protocol ensures free treatment that cannot be afforded otherwise but which ends with the study.

    There are other ethics issues about the racism involved in the Guatemalan and Tuskegee studies, but also about current gender bias in research. eg, most drugs are tested on men because women’s hormones mess things up. However the drugs will be used on women, as if they metabolized them the same way, which is not true. That is also the case for drugs like anti-depressants which women use more than men. This is changing with more women conducting clinical research.

    Great topic!

    1. Thank you for the informative comment. Cutting off medicine on people half way after the drug is successful is very cruel. I once saw a German documentary about patients who were used for a drug testing and the consequences were horrendous. Of course they didn’t with their consent but I am sure they never knew what will happen.

  2. It is scary to think such experiments as this and Tuskegee were done such a relatively short time ago. Preying on unsuspecting poorer populations, or the marginalized as Chiara points points out, is horrible.

    Chiara, thanks for pointing out the Nuremberg trials, very interesting. I lived in Austria, knew several former Nazis and visited many of the death camps in the region. The ability to relegate humans to animal status was apalling. Made me ashamed to have blue eyes and blond hair.

  3. في مواضيع بالحياه الاعتذار بكون كافي فيها …وهالموضوع اكيد مش واحد منهم

    من 1948 لهلأ اكيد انكشف لناس كتير ولكن ما حد اعلنه اعلاميا الا هلأ
    وهالشي بأكد ان ما خفي كان اعظم

    ما بتعرف ممكن نكون احنا كعالم ثالث تعرضنا و معرضين لاختبارات و احنا مش عارفين, ياما استوردنا اشياء و اكتشفنا انها غير صالحه للاستهلاك البشري, غير المواد الكيميائيه اللي بستوردوها و بستخدموها على الخضرة و الفواكه

    الله يستر من اللي جاي

    1. اكيد ما خفي اعظم. وخصوصا في العالم الثالث اللي ما فيه حريه انه خبر زي هيك ينحكى فيه علنا.ـ
      في بعض الدول العربيه اكتشفوا انها تستخدم كمكب للنفايات النوويه بس ما في اللي يحكي.ـ
      الله يستر

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