The study aims to deepen understanding about immunity and help design better treatments and vaccines.
British scientists have launched a test that will deliberately expose participants who have already had COVID-19 to the coronavirus again to examine immune responses and see if people get reinfected.
In February, Britain became the first country in the world to give the green light to so-called “challenge trials” in humans, in which volunteers deliberately expose themselves to COVID-19 to advance research into the disease caused by the coronavirus.
The study released Monday differs from the one announced in February as it seeks to reinfect people who have previously had COVID-19 in an attempt to deepen understanding about immunity, rather than infecting people for the first time.
“The information from this work will allow us to design better vaccines and treatments and also understand whether people are protected after having COVID and for how long,” said Helen McShane, a vaccinologist at the University of Oxford and lead researcher on the study.
He added that the work would help understand what immune responses protect against reinfection.
Scientists have used human challenge trials for decades to learn more about diseases such as malaria, flu, typhoid and cholera and to develop treatments and vaccines against them.
The first stage of the trial will seek to establish the lowest dose of the coronavirus necessary for it to begin replicating in about 50 percent of the participants, while producing few or no symptoms. A second phase, starting in the summer, will infect different volunteers with that standard dose.
In phase one, up to 64 healthy participants, ages 18 to 30, who were infected with coronavirus at least three months ago, will be reinfected with the original strain of SARS-CoV-2.
They will then be quarantined for at least 17 days and monitored, and anyone who develops symptoms will be treated with Regeneron monoclonal antibodies.