The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment was a prospective cohort study that played a critical role in shaping the modern day guidelines and practices in biomedical research. While the main undoing has remained informed consent and failing to give participants treatments once penicillin was proven effective in combating syphilis in 1945, the USPHS study was a program adopted to understand how Treponema pallidum invades and interacts with the human body. The centrality was built on a well acknowledged public health concern and researchable issue, where African Americans reported a disproportionate prevalence of syphilis, which significantly escalated the socioeconomic burden of the STI. However, the challenge could be addressed by understanding the dynamics and pathophysiological development of the disease, an aspect that led to the Congress-backed decision to recruit a cohort of 600 men to participate in the 40-years long prospective study. The band of participants was recruited based on shared characteristics, which include illiteracy, low socioeconomic status, and sex. Besides, the group hailed from a poor county in Alabama and shared ethnoracial backgrounds (Trochim, Donnelly, & Arora, 2016, p.38). Despite the commonalities, only 399 of the sharecroppers were carrying the illness, a feature of the study population that was significant in the comparative assessment of the development, symptoms, as well as the adverse outcome of untreated syphilis among the diseased individuals when compared to their equivalent counterparts who did not have the condition.
feature of the cohort study design exhibited in the Tuskegee program was the philosophical
viewpoint of naturalism, where the scientific
focus was gaining insights of untreated the spirochete in its social context
Scahill, & Kratochvil, 2011, p.745). The criticality of the underpinning was
evident in the longitudinal approach, where individuals were denied treatments to
witness the end-stage developments. The study data was to be collected in
uninformed observational criterion as well as autopsies to document adverse
effects as well as spillover impacts.