The UK is pushing ahead to be the first nation to carry out “human challenge” studies where up to 90 healthy people will be deliberately exposed to Covid.
The trials, which could begin in January, aim to speed up the race to get a Covid-19 vaccine.
The government is putting £33.6m towards the groundbreaking work.
Safety will be a number one priority, experts insist. The plans will need ethical approval and sign-off from regulators before they can go ahead.
Human challenge studies provide a faster way to test vaccines because you don’t have to wait for people to be exposed to an illness naturally.
Researchers would first use controlled doses of the pandemic virus to discover what is the smallest amount that can cause Covid infection in volunteers aged 18 to 30.
These human guinea pigs, who will be infected with the virus through the nose and monitored around the clock, have the lowest risk of harm due to their young age and good health.
Next, scientists could test if a Covid vaccine prevents infection.
Lead researcher for the project Dr Chris Chiu, from Imperial College London, said: “My team has been safely running human challenge studies with other respiratory viruses for over 10 years. No study is completely risk free, but the Human Challenge Programme partners will be working hard to ensure we make the risks as low as we possibly can.”
Prof Peter Openshaw, co-investigator on the study and director of the Human Challenge Consortium, said deliberately infecting volunteers with a known human pathogen was “never undertaken lightly”.
“However, such studies are enormously informative.
“It is really vital that we move as fast as possible towards getting effective vaccines and other treatments for Covid-19.”
There are hundreds of Covid vaccines being developed around the world and several front-runners already in the final stages of testing, including one from Oxford University.
While some of these could get results and start to be used before the new trial has chance to begin, researchers say the work will still be useful, particularly for head-to-head studies to compare which vaccines work best.
Experts say we will probably need a few different vaccines, as well as effective treatments, to defeat Covid. They will also need to be tested in those at highest risk from Covid – the elderly and vulnerable.
The first stage of the human challenge project will be delivered by a partnership between Imperial College London, the Royal Free Hospital’s specialist and secure research unit in London and a company called hVIVO.
The young volunteers will be financially reimbursed for their time, and monitored for up to a year after taking part in the study to check for any side-effects.
Purposely infecting someone with Covid does pose an ethical dilemma, especially since there is no treatment to cure patients, although there are ones that might make it less deadly.
Prof Julian Savulescu, an expert in ethics at Oxford University, said the trials were justified: “In a pandemic, time is lives. So far, over a million people have died.
“There is a moral imperative to develop to a safe and effective vaccine – and to do so as quickly as possible.
“Given the stakes, it is unethical not to do challenge studies.”
Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “We are doing everything we can to fight coronavirus, including backing our best and brightest scientists and researchers in their hunt for a safe and effective vaccine.”
- Bantama SDA Primary Headmaster shot dead by suspected armed robbers
- Playback: Akufo-Addo delivers 25th address on measures taken against Covid-19
- 10-year-old boy allegedly commits suicide at Dambai
- Cameron Duodu: Sɛbe o, tafrakyɛ, na ‘Ɔte K’ɔkɔɔ Soɔ’ deɛ, yɛbɔ n’ano sɛn? – With all due respect, how can the occupant of the Golden Stool be silenced?
- Kokomba warriors kill human-attacking antelopes
- Fuel prices to go up again – Chamber of Petroleum Consumers Ghana
- Man loses lower lip during fight with friend over GH¢18.00
- GPL: WAFA deepen Legon Cities’ relegation woes
- African Ministers of Health endorse and support Africa Common Position on Covid-19 passport
- 7 people electrocuted, 5 others injured at Amanfrom
Livestream: The Probe, discusses Ghana’s 2nd vaccine roll-out and Quest for Herd Immunity
Projects by government to solve energy crisis near completion – Matthew Opoku Prempeh
Fuel prices to go up again – Chamber of Petroleum Consumers Ghana
Ghana spends $586m on unused electricity per year – Energy Minister
Dumsor schedule ends tomorrow, May 17; Energy Minister uncertain about extension or otherwise
Deteriorating dormitories and halls in WA SHS affecting teaching and learning – Headmaster
Kokomba warriors kill human-attacking antelopes
Pediatricians urged to support government in combating jaundice in newborn babies
Alleged assault on Citi FM journalists: Sit up and do the work for which you were elected – NDC to Akufo-Addo
Samson Lardy Anyenini speaks on alleged assault on Citi FM journalist by National Security operatives
Cameron Duodu: Sɛbe o, tafrakyɛ, na ‘Ɔte K’ɔkɔɔ Soɔ’ deɛ, yɛbɔ n’ano sɛn? – With all due respect, how can the occupant of the Golden Stool be silenced?
Denkyira Chiefs rally to fight illegal mining
African Ministers of Health endorse and support Africa Common Position on Covid-19 passport
Assault on Citi FM Journalists: Culture of impunity must be cured – Kweku Baako
Galamsey Fight: Samuel Abu Jinapor lauds efforts by NDC, NPP to stop the menace