U.K. Approves Study That Will Deliberately Infect Volunteers With Coronavirus

LONDON – In the coming weeks, a small carefully selected group of volunteers are expected to arrive on the 11th floor of London’s hospital, which the rest of the 7.8 billion people in the world are trying to escape: coronovirus infection.

They will be administered small drops of the virus as part of a scheme authorized by British regulators on Wednesday to infect volunteers intentionally unaffiliated with their coronoviruses.

Scientists hope to eventually uncover those vaccinated with the virus as a way to compare the effectiveness of various vaccines. But before that, project backers would have to uncover uneducated volunteers who would reliably infect them in order to determine the lowest dosage of the virus.

People over 90 may be part of a trial, but the number may be reduced if researchers can determine the correct dose with fewer volunteers.

By controlling the amount of viruses and monitoring them from the time they become infected, scientists are hoping to discover things about how the immune system responds to coronovirus that would be impossible outside of a laboratory – and to develop direct methods Comparing the efficacy of treatments and vaccines for.

“We are going to learn a lot about the virus’s immunology,” Professor Peter Openshaw of London, an Imperial College involved in the study, said on Wednesday. He added that the study “will not only be able to speed up the understanding of diseases caused by infection, but will also accelerate the discovery of new treatments and vaccines.”

Idea of ​​such study, Called the test of human challenge, has been hotly debated since the early months of the epidemic.

In the past, scientists have intentionally exposed volunteers to diseases such as typhoid and cholera to test vaccines. But infected people can recover from those diseases; There is no known cure for Kovid-19, scientists have put the charge of British studies in largely uninhabited moral territory.

To try to ensure that participants do not become seriously ill, British studies at the age of 18 to 30 will be limited to young, healthy volunteers.

But there have also been severe Kovid-19 cases in those types of patients, and the long-term consequences of an infection are also largely unknown. Age restriction can also make it difficult to translate findings for older adults or people with pre-existing conditions, whose immune responses may be different and who are the target group for treatment and vaccines.

“It will be a limited study,” said Ian Jones, a professor of virology at the University of Reading, who is not part of the study. “And you could argue that by definition, it’s not going to study people in whom it’s most important to know what’s going on.”

For now, the only part of the study to be formally authorized by British regulators is the experiment to determine the lowest dose of the virus needed to infect people.

After exposure to the virus, participants will be isolated in the hospital for two weeks. Follow-up appointments are planned for him and for one year, he will be paid £ 4,500 or about $ 6,200. Researchers said people would be compensated for time away from jobs or families without creating a huge economic incentive for people to participate.

When the idea of ​​testing the human challenge was first introduced last year, some scientists saw it as a significant time off from the race to identify the vaccine. Unlike large clinical trials in which scientists wait for people vaccinated in their communities to encounter the virus, researchers in this project will eventually intentionally infect those vaccinated.

Now that many vaccines have been authorized, the goals of this human challenge test are somewhat different.

For now, researchers will expose people to the version of the virus roaming the UK since last spring, not the more contagious and potentially lethal version that has recently taken hold. But eventually, he said, they could give people experimental vaccines designed to address the effects of new, worrying variants and then subject them to those versions of the virus.

They can also directly compare different vaccine doses and dosage intervals for the same vaccine.

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