Experts are going to reinfect young and healthy adults who have recovered from COVID19 with the virus for a second time to see how their immune systems respond to infection. Experts from the University of Oxford have launched this human challenge trial to develop new treatments and vaccines for the disease. It is a part of a new UK-based study. The study will be sponsored by the Wellcome Trust. The human challenge trial is expected to begin in the next couple of weeks once scientists receive ethics approval. Earlier, such human challenge trials have helped health experts to develop new treatments for a number of diseases such as malaria, typhoid, cholera, and flu. The chief investigator of the study, Helen McShane, who is also a professor of vaccinology at the University of Oxford, has said that the human challenge trial will help experts to make precise calculations during the development of new treatments. Dr. McShane has said that the findings of the study will help experts to come up with better and more effective treatments and vaccines for COVID19. The work will help experts understand whether people who are infected with the virus in the past have natural immunity and how long this natural immunity will last.
The first phase of the human challenge trial will enroll around 64 people who are in the age range of 18 to 30 years and have been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the past. The first stage of the trial will try to find out the lowest dose of the virus that can take hold of the body and start replicating among nearly 50 percent of volunteers while triggering few to no symptoms of the disease. Experts who are going to be a part of the study have said that participants will be closely watched in a safe and controlled atmosphere. They will be kept in quarantine in specially designed hospital rooms for at least 17 days. Experts have said that if some people develop symptoms, they will be treated with Regeneron along with 0.95 percent monoclonal antibody treatment. They have said that after the lowest dose of the virus that can multiply in the human body is established in the first phase, it will be utilized to infect different participants in the second stage of the human challenge trial. The second phase of the trial will take place in summer, said the experts. The duration of the trial will be 12 months, which will include a minimum of 8 months of follow-up appointments after participants are discharged.
The senior author of the new study has said that the new trial is completely different from a parallel study that is being led by experts from Imperial College of London. Experts from Imperial College of London have selected 90 healthy adults and exposed them to coronavirus to see how the virus infects the human body and how it spreads around. As per the latest government data, around 10 million people have been vaccinated with the second dose of the COVID19 vaccine in the UK. At present, three COVID19 vaccines are being used in the vaccine rollout program in the UK. The first vaccine, which is being used in the UK, has been made by a German company called BioNtech and US-based pharmaceutical company Pfizer. The second vaccine that is being used in the UK has been developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University and the third vaccine that is being rolled out in the country has been developed by Moderna. Due to a shortfall in production in its European supply chain, Moderna has said that it will not be able to deliver expected doses of the vaccine to the UK, Canada, and other countries.