2,500 Britons to be infected with Covid-19 in first ‘human challenge’ trial next month
It comes as new research published last week shows people who suffered a mild version of the disease enjoyed immunity which lasted at least four months.
The Times reports as many as 2,500 brave volunteers will step forward to be deliberately infected with the virus after being given an experimental nasal vaccine, in order to speed up research.
Volunteers will be aged between 18 and 30, said Imperial College London, one of the partners in the study, with 90 participants beginning in January next year and results expected by May.
One volunteer told the Times: “If I die, better to die gloriously.”
While Alastair Fraser-Urquhart, 18, of Stoke-on-Trent, previously told Radio 4 that he signed up for the trials to “bring the world out of the pandemic sooner” and save “thousands of lives”.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4, he said he had been told he was to be locked up in the clinic for at least a fortnight as researchers monitored his body’s response.
He said: “I’ll be remaining at the clinic, really, for as long as it takes.
“Obviously we can’t have it infecting anyone who isn’t a part of the trial, so every volunteer would need to be held in bio-containment.”
He added: “It was just something that made instant sense to me, really.”
While 29-year-old Jennifer Wright told the paper she was “very sure that I would like to take a risk to help out”.
“Some of my friends work for the NHS and they’ve been taking risks all through the pandemic while I’ve been looked after and stayed safe,” she said.
Human challenge studies are rarely undertaken as there are ethical questions around deliberately infecting people with viruses.
But there are reportedly thousands of Brits willing to volunteer for the trials and be given the bug in a in a ‘secure bio-containment suite’, reports the Times.
The Government announced the project in October, stating the aim is to “discover the smallest amount of virus it takes to cause a person to develop Covid-19 infection”.
It added: “This is known as a virus characterisation study and will be backed by £33.6 million of government investment.”
Teaching hospital the Royal Free Hospital in Camden, London, is Imperial’s partner in the study, along with clinical company hVIVO, which has pioneered viral human challenge trials