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.
Controlling the amount of viruses and monitoring them from the time they were infected, scientists hope to discover things like how the immune system reacts to coronoviruses that would be impossible outside of a laboratory – and directly compared Treatment and efficacy of vaccines to develop methods.
“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.
The British study will be limited to healthy volunteers at the age of 18 to 30 to try to ensure that participants do not become seriously ill.
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 reveal to people the version of the virus that has been roaming the UK since last spring, and not the more contagious and potentially deadly 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.
And once there are fewer hospitalized patients due to pandemics and admitted to drug tests, the scientists behind the study said additional tests where people are directly infected will allow them to continue to investigate new treatments.
“In the future, we will not have large numbers of people you can study in the field,” said Robert Reid, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Southampton, who helped design the study.
Andrew Catchpole, chief scientific officer of hVIVO, a company involved in testing the human’s challenge, said that infecting even those with low amounts of the virus can provide important insights.
Acutely studied as coronaviruses, relatively few people are understood to understand how people’s immune systems react immediately after being infected.
Nor do scientists yet know the specific types or levels of immune responses that are necessary to completely protect most people from infection, a clue as to how the dozens of vaccines still being studied will perform against the virus.
“The things we don’t understand is a really protective response,” said Lawrence Young, a virologist at Warwick Medical School. “It’s a good way to understand host-pathogen interactions, although it comes with a whole heap of ethical issues, obviously.”
In the first part of the study, scientists will administer small doses of the virus to a small group of volunteers. If they are not infected, scientists will give a slightly larger dose to a different group of volunteers, repeating the process for up to 90 participants until they have determined the correct dose.
By this spring, scientists hope to replicate a version of their experiment by exposing the vaccinated people to the virus. The British government, which is helping to fund the study, will help select vaccines. Those and other future phases of testing will require new regulatory approval.
There is no shortage of interest among potential volunteers in these types of trials, with thousands of people around the world registering their interest with 1Day Suner, a group that is dedicated to human trafficking as a way to accelerate the development of enough stray people Advocates challenge tests. Parts of the world are still waiting for a dose
It is unclear how drug regulators in the UK or worldwide will evaluate the results of a human challenge test, given the age restriction and the low number of people involved.
But Dr. Catchpole said the UK drug regulator had indicated that it would take into account any findings from the group as it evaluated future vaccine candidates.
With the virus now receiving dangerous mutations, a question before scientists is whether they will be able to sustain its development.
Just as new vaccines take time, new viral particles are created to infect people. Dr. Catchpole said it would take researchers three or four months to create a new coronavirus variant in a lab before they could start putting droplets in volunteers’ noses.