Brave Volunteers Are Being Deliberately Reinfected With COVID-19 For Science

21 Avril, 2021, 01:08 | Auteur: Yves Courtet
  • New UK challenge trial to see whether people can get COVID again

United Kingdom researchers are set to purposely re-infect a cohort of recovered COVID-19 patients in order to study how the immune system responds to a second encounter with SARS-CoV-2.

"Challenge studies tell us things that other studies can not because, unlike natural infection, they are tightly controlled.

When we re-infect these participants, we will know exactly how their immune system has reacted to the first Covid infection, exactly when the second infection occurs, and exactly how much virus they got", said Helen McShane, Professor of Vaccinology at the Department of Paediatrics, University of Oxford and Chief Investigator on the study.

The Oxford University's trial will take place in two phases.

The trial's initial phase will look at the minimum dose that allows the virus to start replicating without symptoms in some 50 percent of volunteers. The second phase, planned to launch this summer, will see all participants infected with the established dose from the prior phase. Their study will also look at the response of the immune system after getting reinfected with SARS-CoV-2. The research will last for about a year, including a minimum of eight follow-up appointments after being discharged.

They will then be able to understand what kind of immune responses protect against re-infection. That trial, which intentionally infected people who hadn't previously had the virus, was backed by 33.6 million pounds ($46.3 million) of United Kingdom government funding.

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For this trial, the researchers are looking for 64 previously infected Covid-19 individuals between the age group 18 -30 years.

The virus used in the study will be the original strain from Wuhan, China. Researchers will monitor participants and run tests like CT scans on the lungs and MRI scans on the heart, per the release. But the United Kingdom university has assured that all those enrolled will be completely fit, healthy, and fully recovered from their first Covid infection.

Any participants, recruited on a voluntary basis, who develop any symptoms will be given medical treatment with the Regeneron monoclonal antibody treatment. The trial participants will only be discharged if they are no longer infected and at risk of spreading the disease. Late a year ago a large partnership between the United Kingdom government and several research groups agreed to commence these studies in early 2021. This human challenge trial expands on an ongoing study deliberately infecting healthy subjects to test vaccine efficacy.

"In particular, we will define how re-infection differs from a first infection with this virus, which may have important implications for how the pandemic is managed going forward as more people develop immunity", says Chiu.

"This study has the potential to transform our understanding by providing high-quality data", said Shobana Balasingam, vaccines senior research advisor at Wellcome. "Keeping up the pace of scientific research and development, through crucial studies such as this remain the only way we will truly get ahead of this pandemic and bring it under control", she said.

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