UK to Infect Healthy Volunteers in Challenge Trial

February 18, 2021 – The UK will conduct the first global study on the human challenge of the coronavirus, which means healthy volunteers will be deliberately infected with the coronavirus, government officials said on Wednesday.

The trial will start this month and will help scientists better understand the virus and test treatments and vaccines. Researchers are calling on young people to volunteer and play a role in the trial, which has been approved by the UK’s clinical trials ethics body.

“We have secured a number of safe and effective vaccines for the UK, but it is essential that we continue to develop new vaccines and treatments for COVID-19,” said Clive Dix, acting chairman of the group. UK vaccine work, in a statement.

“We hope that these studies will offer unique insights into how the virus works and help us understand which promising vaccines offer the best chance of preventing infection,” he said.

In the first stage, up to 90 healthy volunteers between the ages of 18 and 30 will be exposed to the coronavirus in a controlled environment to determine the smallest amount of virus needed to cause infection. Researchers will use the version of the virus that has been circulating in the UK since March 2020 and which has a low risk of complications for healthy young adults.

As part of the trial, volunteers will be infected with droplets that are injected into the nose and will be closely monitored during a hospital stay. Patients will be given scratch cards to detect loss of smell and undergo cognitive tests on a tablet computer, as well as regular blood and heart rate tests.

After the initial study, volunteers can be given a COVID-19 vaccine to test the most effective vaccine options in a direct comparison.

“Our end goal is to determine which vaccines and treatments work best to beat this disease, but we need volunteers to support us in this work,” said Chris Chiu, MD, chief researcher at Imperial College London .

Human challenge trials linked to the coronavirus have been controversial, according to the Washington Post, as volunteers are infected with a deadly virus. Even though the UK studies will test small doses in controlled environments, some public health officials have questioned whether provocation trials are needed.

At the same time, challenge trials in humans could lead to the development of new COVID-19 vaccines, including those that could protect against variants. These types of studies have been used to develop vaccines against cholera, malaria, and typhoid.

The trials “give us the potential to test new vaccines very quickly, and that’s really the main focus of this effort,” Robert Read, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Southampton, told the journal.

Volunteers will receive 4,500 pounds, or about $ 6,200, for their participation in the study, which will include a 17-day quarantine at the Royal Free Hospital in north London and follow-up appointments for a year. Those interested in participating in the Human Challenge Studies should visit the UK COVID Challenge website.

WebMD Health News

Sources

UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, “First Global Human Challenge Coronavirus Study Receives Ethical Approval in UK.”
Washington Post, “UK Gets Clearance to Infect Healthy Volunteers in First Coronavirus ‘Challenge Test’
UK COVID Challenge, “Welcome”.


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