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UK-based challenge study to re-expose healthy adults to COVID-19

Study will enrol participants aged 18-30 who have previously been infected with COVID-19

A new UK-based human challenge study will expose healthy volunteers who have previously had COVID-19 to the virus again, in a bid to gain a deeper understanding of immunity against the novel disease.

The study, based at the University of Oxford and funded by the Wellcome Trust, is seeking to understand how the immune system reacts to a second infection of COVID-19, and will also consider what kind of immune response can prevent a person from becoming re-infected.

It will be conducted in two phases, with different participants taking part in each study phase.

The first phase will involve approximately 50% of the participants, all of whom will have previously been naturally infected, and will aim to find out the lowest dose of the virus that can cause replication in the body but produce few or no symptoms.

In the second phase of the study, all participants will be infected with a standardised dose of the virus, that will have been established in phase one.

As part of phase two, researchers will define the baseline immune response prior to infecting participants with COVID-19, and then infect them with the dose chosen in the first phase of the study.

The Oxford researchers will then measure how much of the virus can be detected following infection, then seek to understand what kind of immune response protects against reinfection.

Also during this second phase, the study will measure the immune response at different time points after infection to established what level of immune response is generated by the virus.

In phase one, up to 64 healthy adults aged 18-30 who have previously been naturally infected with COVID-19 will be re-exposed to the original strain of the virus from Wuhan, China in ‘carefully controlled conditions’.

While the study takes place, volunteers will be quarantined in a specially designed environment for at least 17 days under the care of the research team.

During this time, participants will also undergo a number of medical tests including CT scans of the lungs as well as MRI scans of the heart.

If any participants develop symptoms, they will be given Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody treatment REGEN-COV, and will only be discharged when they are no longer infected with the virus and can not infect others.

“Challenge studies tell us things that other studies cannot because, unlike natural infection, they are tightly controlled,” said Helen McShane, professor of vaccinology at the department of paediatrics, University of Oxford and chief investigator of the study.

"When we re-infect these participants, we will know exactly how their immune system has reacted to the first COVID infection, exactly when the second infection occurs, and exactly how much virus they got,” she added.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

19th April 2021

From: Research

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