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UK approves study to deliberately infect volunteers with coronavirus

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London — In the coming weeks, a small group of carefully selected volunteers will arrive on the 11th floor of a London hospital to receive the coronavirus infection that other 7.8 billion people around the world are trying to avoid.

As part of a plan approved by British regulators on Wednesday to deliberately infect unvaccinated volunteers with the coronavirus, they will be given small droplets of the virus into their nostrils.

Scientists want to expose finally vaccinated people to the virus as a way to compare the effectiveness of different vaccines. But before that, project supporters must expose unvaccinated volunteers to determine the minimum dose of virus that will definitely infect them.

As many as 90 people can participate in the study, but if researchers can determine the appropriate dose with fewer volunteers, that number could be even lower.

By controlling the amount of virus that people are exposed to and monitoring them from the moment they are infected, scientists discover the immune system’s response to coronavirus, which is not possible outside the laboratory, and directly. I want to develop a method. Compare the effectiveness of treatment and vaccine.

“We’re going to learn so much about viral immunology,” said Peter Openshaw, a professor at Imperial College London, who was involved in the study, Wednesday. “Not only will it accelerate our understanding of the diseases caused by infections, but it will also accelerate the discovery of new treatments and vaccines,” he added.

The· Ideas for such researchIt has been hotly debated since the early months of the pandemic, called the Human Challenge Trial.

In the past, scientists have deliberately exposed volunteers to diseases like typhoid fever and cholera to test vaccines. However, infected people can cure those illnesses. There is no known cure for Covid-19, and scientists are responsible for British research in an almost unknown ethical area.

To prevent participants from becoming seriously ill, UK studies are limited to young, healthy volunteers between the ages of 18 and 30.

However, there are serious cases of Covid-19 in these types of patients, and little is known about the long-term effects of infection. Age restrictions can result in different immune responses and can also make it difficult to translate findings into older people and people with pre-existing conditions, which are the target groups for treatment and vaccines.

“This 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 by definition, we can argue that we are not going to study those who are most important to know what is happening.”

So far, the only part of the study officially approved by the UK regulator is an experiment to determine the minimum dose of virus needed to infect people.

After being exposed to the virus, participants will be quarantined in the hospital for two weeks. £ 4,500, or about $ 6,200, will be paid for the planned one-year follow-up schedule. Researchers said it would compensate people for time away from work and family without creating too much financial incentive for them to participate.

When the idea for the Human Challenge Trial first came up last year, some scientists saw it as a way to cut significant time in racing to identify vaccines. Unlike large-scale clinical trials where scientists wait for vaccinated people to encounter the virus in their communities, researchers in this project will eventually infect vaccinated people intentionally. I will.

With several vaccines approved, the goals of this human challenge trial are slightly different.

So far, researchers have exposed people to versions of the virus that have been prevalent in the UK since last spring and are not the recently established, more contagious and potentially deadly variants. But in the end, they said, they could provide people with experimental vaccines designed to address the effects of new and anxious variants and expose them to those versions of the virus.

You can also directly compare different vaccine doses and dosing intervals for the same vaccine.

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