A controversial study, which will infect 90 healthy volunteers with COVID-19, will take place in the UK.
A team of British researchers associated with those at Imperial College London will be the first to use this technique to study the disease. They ensure that their study will accelerate the development of an effective vaccine.
Research known as the challenge trial is not frequently conducted for ethical reasons as it involves the contagion of healthy individuals. Despite all safety concerns, British scientists say the risk is justified because these studies have the potential to quickly identify the most effective vaccines.
“Deliberately infecting volunteers with a known human pathogen is never done lightly. However, these trials are enormously informative about a disease, even one as well studied as COVID-19,” said the professor and study co-author, Peter Openshaw.
Similar research is typically conducted to test various treatments for mild infections. Scientists thus avoid exposing volunteers to serious medical conditions in case a vaccine doesn’t work.
However, the ethical question of this technique of studying COVID-19 is that the long-term effects of COVID-19 are not yet well understood. There have been reports of persistent problems with the heart and other organs, even those who did not feel so sick.
In the first phase of the research, British scientists plan to infect volunteers through the nasal route to determine the lowest level of exposure necessary to cause COVID-19. Ultimately, the efficacy of potential vaccine candidates will be tested. Researchers will monitor the health status of all volunteers for at least one year to make sure they do not suffer lasting effects.
The British Government plans to spend about $ 43.4 million on this experiment.
Alastair Fraser-Urquhart is an 18-year-old volunteer who wants to participate in this study. He claims he is young and strong and can help advance research into an effective vaccine quickly.
“I can’t let this opportunity to do something, to really do something, pass me by when I’m at such low risk”. “The idea that I could have a part to play in ending, you know, millions of people’s misery and pain and I don’t — It just doesn’t sit well with me,” he said in a conversation with the AP agency.
The team associated with scientists from Imperial College London plans to launch their experiment in January 2021 and expect to receive the first results in May. Although one or more vaccines may be approved before the start of this research, this study will still be necessary because the world would have to have multiple vaccines to protect different population groups or those who are not cured with existing ones, explained Michael Jacobs, Consultant to the Royal Free London NHS, a foundation that will take part in the research.
“We are going to need a whole series of interventions to control this pandemic,” he said.
This controversial technique had already been used to develop vaccines against diseases such as typhoid, cholera and malaria.
Today, governments around the world are funding medical research to develop a vaccine in hopes of ending the pandemic that has hit the global economy hard and left millions of people out of work. 46 potential vaccines are already being tested in humans, and 11 of them go through the final phase of clinical trials. Several of them are expected to deliver results by the end of 2020 or early 2021.