The world’s first medical trial authorized to intentionally expose participants to the coronavirus is seeking more volunteers as it ramps up efforts to help develop better vaccines.
The Oxford University trial was launched last April, three months after Britain became the first country to approve so-called challenge trials for people with COVID-19.
The first phase, which is still ongoing, was aimed at finding out how much of the virus is needed to cause an infection, while the second phase will focus on determining the immune response needed to trigger an infection. ward off infection, the university said in a statement on Tuesday.
Researchers are close to pinpointing the weakest possible virus infection that causes about half of people exposed to it to develop asymptomatic or mild COVID-19.
They then plan to expose volunteers – all previously naturally infected or vaccinated – to that dose of the original variant of the virus to determine what levels of antibodies or immune T cells are needed to prevent infection. .
“This is the immune response we then need to elicit with a new vaccine,” said Helen McShane, a professor of Vaccinology at Oxford University and principal investigator on the study.
The study’s findings will help make future vaccine development much faster and more efficient, the statement said.
Global immunologists have attempted to pinpoint the immune response a vaccine must produce to protect against the disease, known as a correlate of protection. Once discovered, the need for massive vaccine trials is greatly reduced.
Scientists have been using human challenge tests for decades to develop treatments against many infectious diseases, but this is the first known study of COVID-19.
One drawback is the risk of harm to volunteers who contract the disease, but the university is taking precautions.
Participants must be healthy and be 18-30 years old. They will be quarantined for at least 17 days and anyone who develops symptoms will receive Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody treatment Ronapreve.
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