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Covid-19: UK researchers launch world-first study that will deliberately infect people with virus

The trial will start in the coming weeks.

Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

UK RESEARCHERS HAVE launched the world’s first study which will deliberately expose volunteers to Covid-19 in a bid to establish the smallest amount of virus needed to cause infection.

The trial, which will start in the coming weeks, will involve up to 90 carefully selected adult volunteers who will deliberately be exposed to the virus in a safe and controlled environment.

The first-of-its-kind study has been approved by the UK’s clinical trials ethics body.

It will give doctors a greater understanding of Covid-19 and help support the pandemic response by aiding vaccine and treatment development.

The virus characterisation study will initially use the version of the virus that has been circulating in the UK since March 2020, and not new variants.

The earlier strain has been shown to be of low risk in young healthy adults.

Medics and scientists will closely monitor the effect of the virus on volunteers and will be on hand to look after them 24 hours a day.

The researchers are working closely with the Royal Free Hospital and the North Central London (NCL) Adult Critical Care Network to ensure the study will not affect the NHS’s ability to care for patients during the pandemic.

Interim chairman of the Vaccines Taskforce, Clive Dix, suggested that the study would help develop new vaccines and treatments for Covid-19.

“We expect these studies to offer unique insights into how the virus works and help us understand which promising vaccines offer the best chance of preventing the infection,” he said.

After the initial study has taken place, vaccine candidates proven to be safe in clinical trials could be given to small numbers of volunteers who are then exposed to coronavirus.

This will help identify the most effective vaccines and accelerate their development.

People aged between 18 and 30 years old, who are at the lowest risk of complications resulting from coronavirus, are being encouraged to volunteer for the study.

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Volunteers will be compensated for the time they spend in the study.

Human challenge studies have previously played important roles in accelerating the development of treatments for malaria, typhoid, cholera, norovirus and flu.

The trials have also helped researchers establish which possible vaccine is most likely to succeed in phase three clinical trials that would follow, usually involving thousands of volunteers.

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Press Association

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