The world’s first medical trial to deliberately expose subjects to coronavirus requires volunteers to develop better vaccines.
The Oxford University study was launched last April, three months after Britain became the first country to approve COVID-19 human trials.
The first phase, which is still ongoing, focuses on detecting the amount of virus needed to cause infection, while the second will aim to determine the immune response needed to prevent infection, the university said in a statement.
Scientists are close to identifying the weakest possible viral infection, which guarantees that about half of people exposed to it will receive asymptomatic or mild COVID-19.
They then plan to expose volunteers – all previously naturally infected or vaccinated – to that dose of the original variant of the virus to determine what levels of antibodies or immune T cells are needed to prevent infection.
“It’s an immune response that we need to boost with the new vaccine,” said Helen McShane, a professor at Oxford University and lead author of the study.
The research findings will help make the future development of the vaccine much faster and more efficient, the statement said.
Immunologists around the world are trying to pinpoint the level of immune response that a vaccine must elicit to protect against disease.
Once this level is detected, the need for mass vaccine testing is significantly reduced.
Scientists have used human experiments for decades to develop therapies for many infectious diseases, but this is the first known study of COVID-19.
The downside of the study is the health risk of volunteers getting COVID-19, but the university is taking all precautions.
Respondents must be healthy and aged 18-30.
They will be quarantined for at least 17 days, and anyone who develops symptoms will receive Regeneron ronapreve.