Oxford University is seeking volunteers for the world’s first medical trial that deliberately exposes participants to the original strain of the COVID-19 virus to evaluate how their immune response responds to the virus, according to a recent press statement.
“The aim of this trial is to find out what level of immune response – antibodies and T cells – we need in our bodies to prevent infection when healthy people are exposed to the virus,” said lead investigator Helen McShane, professor of vaccinology at the department of pediatrics, University of Oxford.
She added, “If we know what level of immune response we need the vaccine to induce, it will make future vaccine development much quicker and much more efficient.”
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The statement said the participants must be between 18-30 years old and in excellent state of health before entering the study, with the study requiring them to have either received a vaccine against COVID-19 without a prior infection or previously had the infection but completely recovered.
The study began in April 2021 with its first phase to establish the lowest dose of the virus, which is the original strain from Wuhan, China, that can infect and replicate in approximately 50% of participants, but cause minimal symptoms, per the statement.
The University of Oxford noted that after a standardized dose is established in the first phase, all participants will be infected with the viral dose in the second phase.
All participants will be quarantined for at least 17 days in a designated hospital suite, get a CT lung and a heart MRI and only be discharged after they are no longer infected or infectious to others, but if any of the participants become symptomatic, they will receive the Regeneron monoclonal antibody treatment.
“It’s probably the first time in the pandemic I felt like I could do something directly useful.
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There’s only so much you can do in labs and vials, and sometimes just seeing how something functions within a human body is the best way to learn really quickly,” said featured study participant Marcus in the study’s video, which includes participants’ interviews on what it’s like to be in the research.
All participants are given informed consent regarding the study and screened before it starts to make sure their risk of getting severe symptoms is really low, according to the video.
Day zero is when the participants get inoculated with COVID-19 in their nose, and then are tested twice a day by PCR to see if they have COVID-19 along with frequent blood tests, per the video.
Although human challenge trials, which deliberately infect people to study the effects of the infection, have been done for years, this is the first known on COVID-19, according to Reuters.
The news outlet also noted, although the trial is completely voluntary, the study’s major drawback is its risk of potential harm to the volunteers who may contract the disease, but the study is taking precautions, including receiving ethics approval.