The Oxford University has launched a new COVID-19 study that will determine the effects of reinfection in humans. The “human challenge”, funded by the Wellcome Trust, aims to influence future treatments and immunization against the virus.
The study will gather young adult participants between the ages of 18-30 who previously contracted COVID-19 naturally. It will run in two parts, the first of which began on April 21st. In this phase, researchers will inoculate 50% of the participants. The goal is to determine the lowest viral dose that can infect and replicate inside the participant’s bodies while producing minimal symptoms. Once they establish this dose, the researchers will infect the rest of the participants with it.
According to a statement by the Oxford University, the study will keep participants under strict quarantine and observation for 17 days. The research team will run rigorous tests in order to monitor the infection’s progress. They will manage symptoms with “Regeneron” monoclonal antibody treatment and discharge the patients after they are completely infection-free. The researchers will then schedule follow-up appointments.
The Human Challenge
This reinfection study is a “human challenge”. This type of medical research involves infecting participants with a pathogen on purpose. This way, they can study the effects in a medically controlled environment.
According to Helen McShane, Professor of Vaccinology at the Department of Paediatrics, University of Oxford and Chief Investigator on the study:
Source: Oxford University
‘Challenge studies tell us things that other studies cannot because, unlike natural infection, they are tightly controlled. When we re-infect these participants, we will know exactly how their immune system has reacted to the first COVID infection, exactly when the second infection occurs, and exactly how much virus they got. As well as enhancing our basic understanding, this may help us to design tests that can accurately predict whether people are protected.’
Vaccines Senior Research Advisor at Wellcome, Shobana Balasingam, said:
‘There are still many unknowns surrounding this virus and human infections studies can enable us to learn a lot about Covid-19. This study has the potential to transform our understanding by providing high-quality data on how our immune system responds to a second infection with this virus.
‘The findings could have important implications for how we handle Covid-19 in the future, and inform not just vaccine development but also research into the range of effective treatments that are also urgently needed. Keeping up the pace of scientific research and development, through crucial studies such as this remain the only way we will truly get ahead of this pandemic and bring it under control.’