by Rhian Lubin
EXCLUSIVE: Infecting volunteers so they can be tested could help stop the spread of Covid-19 – so now 24 triallists face 14 days of solitary confinement and we took a look inside.
As I lie in a hospital bed in a sterile clinic room, a nurse in blue scrubs with a full face shield and ventilator peers through the glass.
The red tape around the door makes it crystal clear that this is a high contamination zone.
(Image: Adam Gerrard/Daily Mirror)
“This is a critical step to fast-track development of these anti-virals and vaccines,” explains Dr Andrew Catchpole, chief scientist at Hvivo which runs the facility. “We’re trying to use our expertise in this area to see what we can do.”
Volunteers will not be infected with Covid-19, but with “harmless” strains of the coronavirus – OC43 and 229E – which will cause a very mild respiratory illness.
The aim is to safely expose them to “close relatives” of the deadly strain, helping pharmaceutical firms test potential vaccines.
Dr Catchpole added: “If it can work on our virus, there’s no reason why it can’t work with Covid-19.”
Cathal Friel, executive chairman of Hvivo’s owner Open Orphan, added: “The company is starting the process of developing the world’s first coronavirus challenge study model – basically, we take a harmless version of the virus that we can use and monitor.
“This is a British company which is the world centre for virology.”
Hvivo, which has been running clinical trials on flu and cold viruses since 2001, has seen an unprecedented 10,000 apply for coronavirus tests at its site in Whitechapel, East London.
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