London: British scientists are all set to launch a controversial trial that will infect healthy volunteers with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus to examine the disease and to speed up the development of an effective vaccine. The UK has become the first country to reinforce studies that would see healthy volunteers deliberately infected with coronavirus after given a potential vaccine.
Imperial College London announced that it will conduct the study in partnership with the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, the National Health System Trust and hVIVO, a company with testing experience, on Tuesday.
Scientists called this risky experiment a "challenge study" and will be piloted on healthy volunteers aged 18 to 30, and claims that could yield faster results than standard research.
"Deliberately infecting volunteers with a known human pathogen is never undertaken lightly. However, such studies are enormously informative about a disease, even one so well studied as COVID-19," said Professor Peter Openshaw, co-investigator on the study.
The first phase of the study is known as virus characterization, researchers' aim will be to discover the lowest level of virus exposure required to cause the disease. And once the phase is completed, researchers will then use the same challenge model to study how potential vaccines work in the body, the body's immune response and potential treatments.
The study is expected to begin early next year, and the study design will be published in the coming months.