UK to infect healthy people with COVID-19 virus to hasten vaccine development

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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COVID-19 Testing
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The United Kingdom is setting the stage for one of the rarest testing techniques where 90 young and healthy volunteers will be infected with novel coronavirus to study COVID-19 and expedite the development of a viable COVID-19 vaccine. 

Known as the human challenge study, the mechanism is rarely used and is often a debatable topic for its ethical prospects of infecting the unaffected with the virus.

A team of researchers who are associating with London’s Imperial College for this controversial method that the risks involved are worth every penny as the study can potentially share immediate insights to identify the most effective of COVID-19 vaccines currently undergoing trials.

Professor Peter Openshaw, one of the co-investigator of the study emphasized that the methodology of deliberately infecting volunteers with a known human pathogen is never undertaken lightly while adding that “such studies are enormously informative about a disease, even one so well studied as COVID-19.”

In the past, similar approaches have been used to develop vaccines for diseases including typhoid, cholera and malaria.

The $43.4 million (33.6 million pounds) study which will be conducted among a group of volunteers aged 18 to 30 is organized in partnership with the UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust and hVIVO, a company that has experience conducting challenge studies.

As much as forty-six potential vaccines are already in human testing, with 11 of them in late-stage trials with clinical results expected by later this year or in early 2021.