A world-first COVID-19 study will deliberately expose healthy, young volunteers to the bug — in the hopes of discovering how much of the virus is needed to cause infection, scientists said.
A group of 90 participants ages 18 to 30 will be exposed in a “controlled setting” as a part of the coronavirus human challenge, which is set to begin in the UK within weeks, the Guardian reported.
“These are quite unique studies, able to accelerate not only understanding of diseases caused by infection, but also to accelerate the discovery of new treatments and of vaccines,” Peter Openshaw, a professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College London, told the outlet.
The trial was greenlit by the country’s clinical trials ethics body this week with the goal of learning the smallest amount of the virus needed to cause infection, instead of symptoms, the Guardian said.
Participants were carefully screened to ensure they’re at low risk of health complications — and they will quarantine at the Royal Free hospital in London after the trial, Openshaw said.
“None of us want to do this if there is any appreciable risk,” he said.
Participants, who will be paid £4,500 (about $6,235) for undergoing the trial, will also be monitored 24 hours a day for two weeks, with blood samples and nose swabs taken daily.
Researchers will then check in with participants for at least a year to monitor potential long-term symptoms or effects of the virus.
During the study, scientists will use a medical-grade version of the COVID-19 virus that circulated in the UK last summer, as opposed to the newer UK strain that emerged in November.