A team of researchers at the University of Oxford has announced the launch of a human challenge trial under which people who have fought off the Covid-19 will be re-exposed to it in order to develop more effective vaccines against the virus.
For this trial, the researchers are looking for 64 previously infected Covid-19 individuals between the age group 18 -30 years. The volunteers will be first reinfected with the original strain from Wuhan, China and will be monitored for a year, according to a report in cnbc.com.
With this, the researchers from the UK university will examine what types of immune systems could prevent people from becoming reinfected from Covid-19. They will also investigate how the immune system reacts to the virus a second time. Additionally, the study will also determine how much virus, on average, it takes to infect someone who's had the virus earlier.
The Oxford University's trial will take place in two phases. The first phase is scheduled to take place this month and the second phase is due to start during the summers.
For the phase-1 trial, the participants will undergo CT scans of the lungs and MRI scans of the heart. Thereafter, the researchers will examine the participants in a quarantine unit for a minimum of 17 days. The trial participants will only be discharged if they are no longer infected and at risk of spreading the disease.
On the other hand, the second phase of the trial will explore two different areas. According to Helen McShane, chief investigator of the study and professor of vaccinology at the Department of Paediatrics, University of Oxford, "First, we will define very carefully the baseline immune response in the volunteers, before we infect them. We will then infect them with the dose of virus chosen from the first study and measure how much virus we can detect after infection".
"Second, we will measure the immune response at several time points after infection so we can understand what immune response is generated by the virus," she added.
During the trial, participants who develop Covid-19 symptoms will be treated with an antibody drug from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc, authorised by US regulators, Oxford said. The research will last for about a year, including a minimum of eight follow-up appointments after being discharged.
Meanwhile, critics of the human challenge trials have pointed out the ethical dangers of infecting people without being sure of its long-term consequences. But the UK university has assured that all those enrolled will be completely fit, healthy, and fully recovered from their first Covid infection.
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