Monday, April 19, 2021

Human infection trials for Covid approved in UK

Covid-19 ‘Challenge Trial’ Will Purposely Reinfect Adults | Wall Street Journal - Jenny Strasburg:

April 18, 2021 - "University of Oxford scientists plan to reinfect dozens of adult volunteers with the coronavirus in the second U.K. clinical trial to study deliberate Covid-19 infection ... among people who have already recovered from the virus. Such 'human challenge' trials are controversial because they involve intentionally infecting healthy humans, and the U.K. is the only country so far conducting them with Covid-19.... The new trial is focused on probing the boundaries of human immunity and the effects of the virus on the body from the moment of reinfection.... 

"The first Covid-19 challenge study, led by Imperial College London infectious-disease researchers, started in March.... That study received a pledge of more than $45 million from the U.K. government.

"Oxford’s trial is funded by the London-based Wellcome Trust, a healthcare-focused charitable foundation. As many as 64 people aged 18 to 30 years will be quarantined in staggered phases inside Oxford University Hospitals at roughly 17-day intervals, starting as soon as next month, according to Helen McShane, an Oxford vaccinologist who is leading the trial.

"Debates about inoculating humans with live, potent viruses have gone on for centuries. In the late 1700s, British doctor Edward Jenner applied material from cowpox and smallpox lesions to children and adults and recorded the reactions. The now-famous experiments paved the way for modern vaccines.

"But in the pandemic, the U.S. and other countries have steered clear of purposely infecting healthy people with the coronavirus. Critics argue the risks aren’t justified, given the broad presence of naturally circulating virus and the success of vaccines already available. What’s more, some say newer variants of the virus make the older strain used in the U.K. challenge trials less relevant....

"Challenge-trial proponents argue there is no substitute for the precision of controlled studies. They have been used for decades to study diseases including typhoid, malaria and tuberculosis and to develop vaccines. With Covid-19, Prof. McShane told journalists in a briefing last week, 'We don’t know whether someone has not been infected because they haven’t been exposed or [because] they have protective immunity.' Controlling exposure will help with those questions, she said.

"The first phase of the Oxford-led trials will test virus dosages required for reinfection.... Phase two will chart immune response, including protection via prior infection. No vaccines will be used in either phase. Volunteers will be tracked for a year."

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