LONDON (Reuters) – Britain on Wednesday became the first country in the world to give the green light to human challenge trials in which volunteers will be deliberately exposed to COVID-19 to advance research into the disease caused by COVID-19. new coronavirus.
The trial, which will begin in a month, will see up to 90 healthy volunteers between the ages of 18 and 30 exposed to the smallest amount of the virus necessary to cause infection, the scientists behind the plans told reporters at a news conference. .
Volunteers will be screened for possible health risks before they are allowed to participate and will be quarantined for close monitoring by medical staff for at least 14 days in a specialist unit at London’s Royal Free Hospital.
“The top priority, of course, is the safety of the volunteers,” said Peter Openshaw, professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College London, who co-leads the project with the UK government’s vaccine working group and the company. hVIVO clinic. “None of us want to do this if there is appreciable risk.”
Scientists have used human challenge trials for decades to learn more about diseases like malaria, influenza, typhoid and cholera, and to develop treatments and vaccines against them.
Trial participants will be allowed to go home after the first 14 days only if “extensive testing” shows they are not infectious, said Chris Chiu of Imperial, the trial’s principal investigator.
The goal of this initial work was “to understand how the virus infects people and how it is so successfully transmitted among us,” Chiu said. Then more trials could be done using the challenge models in the months and years to come to establish which vaccines and treatments work best, he said.
Volunteers will receive compensation payments of around £ 88 ($ 122) per day for the duration of the study, which will also include a follow-up follow-up for one year, Chiu’s team said, and the studies will be conducted in a safe and secure environment. controlled and will minimize any risk.
To make the test as safe as possible, the version of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that has been circulating in England since March 2020 will be used, rather than one of the new variants, they said.