Medical research to infect healthy, young volunteers with COVID-19


  • For the sake of research, a UK study will deliberately inject healthy and young people with SARS-CoV-2, a deadly pathogen with no proven treatments. 
  • The government-funded trial worth $43.5 million is yet to be approved by an ethics committee, according to Reuters. 
  • Dubbed as the “human challenge”, the trial, which will reportedly involve 90 volunteers from ages 18 to 30, will be conducted at the isolation unit at London’s Royal Free Hospital. 

In a bid to garner more information about the novel coronavirus that can help lead to more developments of treatments and vaccines, the United Kingdom on Wednesday announced its plans to support a study that will involve purposely infecting young and healthy participants with COVID-19.

Lancet reported that roughly 90 volunteers aged 18 to 30, are expected to join in the so-called ‘human challenge’ which will happen in London’s Royal Free Hospital high-level isolation unit. 

According to Reuters, the government will use $43.5 million to finance the trials, which is still up for approval by an ethics committee. 

When the idea for the trials first emerged in October, the magazine Nature said infecting people, especially those at low risk of serious disease, with the deadly pathogen SARS-CoV-2 with few proven treatments, is “unchartered medical and bioethical territory.” Belgium was also cited by the magazine to consider similar projects. 

While it is known that the virus is more lethal for people aged 65 and older, concerns from critics were raised if studying the disease in healthy and young people is worth the risk, considering that the virus is unstable with no proven treatment. 

However, advocates of the study stress that knowledge that can be gained is crucial and worthwhile. 

“Deliberately infecting volunteers with a known human pathogen is never undertaken lightly,” said study co-lead and immunologist at Imperial College London, Peter Openshaw, per the medical journal. 

“However, such studies are enormously informative about a disease. It is really vital that we move as fast as possible towards getting effective vaccines and other treatments for COVID-19, and challenge studies have the potential to accelerate and de-risk the development of novel drugs and vaccines.”

Furthermore, Imperial College scientist Chris Chiu told Reuters that among the first studies he’ll conduct is assessing how the carriers in the initial stages of the infection are affected by remdesivir, a Gilead antiviral drug. He added that his team strongly believes that the drug may prove to be effective if given early. 

Source: Fox News

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