Volunteers could soon be deliberately infected with coronavirus in trials to speed up a vaccine and discover if people are protected if they have already had the disease.
In a groundbreaking trial, scheduled to begin in January at the Royal Free Hospital in London, patients will be inoculated with a vaccine developed by Imperial College, and then exposed to coronavirus.
“Challenge trials” are controversial, but can give a quick answer about whether a vaccine is effective and several Nobel laureates have called for them to take place.
Oxford University is also intending to use a similar “challenge trial” to test whether people have protective immunity from the disease if they have been previously infected.
Both groups of researchers are currently hunting for a “salvage therapy” that would be given as a last resort if the vaccine did not work before they can begin the trials and will need approval. The trials will be funded by the Government.
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The Imperial trial is being run by hVIVO, a spin-off company from Queen Mary University of London. Already roughly 2,000 people have signed up to take part in challenge studies in Britain through the group 1Day Sooner.
Those testing the vaccine will be given the jab and will then wait a month for antibodies to build. The volunteers will then be exposed to the virus…
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