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  • With the global roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines underway,

  • it may feel like the end of the fight is on the horizon.

  • But there are still so many unanswered questions.

  • One groundbreaking study wants to find the answers by deliberately infecting healthy human volunteers

  • with the virus that we've all been avoiding.

  • So understandably, there's a pretty big debate about if a study like this is worth the risk.

  • Purposefully infecting human volunteers with a pathogen to gain more insight into how that pathogen works

  • is called a 'human challenge trial'—

  • the human body is being 'challenged' by the infectious thing.

  • Human challenge trials are nothing newresearchers have been conducting them to help us understand

  • diseases like malaria and influenza for decades, and they've given us some really important information.

  • And although trials like this can be done safely,

  • they've also been used unethically and controversially in the past.

  • This human challenge trial for COVID-19 will be run by a number of clinical research organizations in the UK.

  • It'll be led by research scientists at Imperial College London and will take place in a high-level isolation unit in a London hospital.

  • Participants will be exposed to the virus by having it literally dripped into their noses.

  • They'll be closely monitored, with blood samples and nose swabs taken every day,

  • and participants undergoing a battery of tests on everything from their sense of smell to their cognitive abilities throughout the trial.

  • The first phase of the study will aim to determine something really important: infectious dose,

  • or how much virus does someone have to be exposed toto actually get sick?

  • Then, after a participant has the disease, the researchers can measure their immune response to the virus and test potential treatments.

  • This study could help us better understand questions we really need answers to, like:

  • How is the virus shed by those who have it?

  • What is the possibility and mechanism of reinfection?

  • Can we find clues that'll tell us which people are more likely to develop symptoms?

  • Another potential benefit of a human challenge trial is that it could be expanded to compare the efficacy and safety

  • of different vaccine formulations.

  • See, in a typical vaccine trial, people who receive the vaccine go out into the world, living their daily lives.

  • This allows trial researchers to gather data about how well that vaccine protects that person as they encounter disease 'in the wild'.

  • But as more of the general population becomes vaccinated, it'll actually be harder to test how well new vaccines work.

  • It brings up questions like:

  • Is a person in a vaccine trial protected because of the new vaccine they received?

  • Or are they protected by others around them who have been vaccinated with a different kind?

  • So, a human challenge trial may help us fill in the gaps about the effectiveness of new vaccine candidates,

  • especially as new variants of the virus emerge.

  • But there's still the key question: how ethical is this?

  • And will its potential benefits outweigh the very real risks?

  • The trial will be held under tight medical supervision,

  • and the selection process will make sure all participants are in accordance with WHO guidelines.

  • They'll be healthy young adults ages 18-30,

  • whose health history would make them unlikely to develop severe disease from the COVID-19 virus.

  • But there's still always the very small possibility that someone could become really sick or even die

  • because we don't have guaranteed treatment for the disease once someone has it.

  • And we still don't fully understand the lingering effects the disease can cause, which may affect some individuals for a really long time.

  • And there are those who argue that these studies are not useful for evaluating vaccines because

  • those chosen to take part are so young and healthy

  • whereas a vaccine must be proven safe and effective for populations of all ages and health statuses.

  • Regardless, the UK government has already invested 33.6 million pounds to fund this research,

  • and they're not the only ones.

  • The Belgian government has invested 20 million euros for a similar human challenge trial of its own,

  • although the planned timing of this is unclear.

  • The US is developing its own plans for similar trials,

  • although it's waiting on more vaccine trial data and no concrete plans are currently in place.

  • As I wrote this script, over 20 million people have received a vaccine dose in the UK alone,

  • and by the time you see this it will probably be more.

  • And the boundary-pushing human challenge trial was approved to begin in March of 2021!

  • Its proponents hope the information we'll gain from the trial will give us an advantage over the novel coronavirus

  • as we fight to make normal life as normal and as safe as possible.

  • And maybe, it'll make us better prepared for anything new the virus may throw our way too.

  • Because the virus isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

  • What do you think? Would you take part in a human challenge trial?

  • Should a study like this wait until we have a better way to treat those infected with the disease?

  • Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below,

  • and subscribe to Seeker for all your important COVID-19 research updates.

  • As always, thanks for watching. I'll see ya next time.

With the global roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines underway,

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B1 trial human challenge disease study covid

Would You Sign Up For a COVID-19 Human Challenge Trial?

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    林宜悉 posted on 2021/03/25
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