April 10, 2021

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UK: Corona-infected volunteers for the study

Status: 07.03.2021 3:53 p.m.

How does the immune system respond to corona – how does the virus spread? British researchers hope to find answers to these questions from a study in which experimental subjects are deliberately affected by corona. The method is controversial.

In the UK, the first volunteers were infected with the corona virus as part of a study. The so-called human challenge analysis began, the news agency confirmed by the British Ministry of Health. The study was first announced in mid-February.

The study uses the original corona variant

According to previous reports from the British government, this is the first study in the world in which people are particularly affected by SARS-Cowie-2. “The Human Challenge program will enhance and accelerate the development of vaccines and treatments against Govt-19,” a ministry spokesman said.

The first group of volunteers began a viral character study at the Royal Free Hospital in London. The subjects were exposed to the virus in a safe and controlled environment and monitored around the clock by doctors and scientists, it said. The corona pathogen, which has appeared in Great Britain since March 2020, is not the most contagious variant of B.1.1.7, which first appeared in the autumn in the south-east of England.

“Human challenge tests”, in which healthy people are exposed to a pathogen, for example, used to develop flu or malaria vaccines. However, in contrast to the British study, the test subjects were initially given an active ingredient.

Insights into the immune response and transmission

In the British program, young, healthy people were selected as test subjects who, according to current knowledge, have a relatively low risk of developing acute Covit-19. You must first be given the lowest dose of the virus needed for the infection. Up to 90 volunteers can be targeted. According to the government, volunteers receive compensation for their participation.

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Through initial character studies, researchers want to find out how the immune system responds to the virus and how infected virus particles are released into the environment. At the beginning of the study, the British Ministry of Economic Affairs said that in follow-up studies, test subjects could first be vaccinated with a new active ingredient against corona and then exposed to the virus.

The approach is controversial

In Germany, the Association of Research Pharmaceutical Manufacturers (vfa) rejects human challenge studies as unethical.

There are also medical reservations: “Challenge studies may show a misleading picture, because the findings obtained only with young, healthy individuals will not be transferred to the elderly and the chronically ill,” the association insists. Artificially induced infections do not match real infections in everyday life.