Under 30s can get paid £5,000 to be reinfected with coronavirus

Oxford University to reinfect recovered Covid-19 patients to develop better vaccines

United Kingdom researchers are set to purposely re-infect a cohort of recovered COVID-19 patients in order to study how the immune system responds to a second encounter with SARS-CoV-2. They will be re-exposed to the virus in a safe and monitored environment, while a team of researchers keeps track of their progress in fighting it. In a custom-built quarantine facility they will be exposed to low doses of the virus in order to find the minimum dose that leads to viral replication regardless of symptoms. In the second part, likely to start this summer, participants will be infected with the dose of virus as established in the first phase.

"They will significantly improve our understanding of the dynamics of virus infection and of the immune response as well as provide valuable information to help with the ongoing design of vaccines and the development of anti-viral therapies".

They will then infect them with the dose of virus chosen from the first study and measure how much virus we can detect after infection.

The observational study, published in the Lancet involving US Marine Corps members mostly aged 18-20, showed that between May and November 2020, around 10% of participants who had previously caught coronavirus became re-infected.

The study launched on Monday differs from the one announced in February as it seeks to reinfect people who have previously had Covid-19 in an effort to deepen understanding about immunity, rather than infecting people for the first time.

"Challenge studies tell us things that other studies can not because, unlike natural infection, they are tightly controlled".

"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", McShane said.

Prof McShane virus used in the study will be the original strain from Wuhan, China, "because that is the strain that we have most clinical, immunological (and) virological data on" but added discussions are under way to include one of the new coronavirus variants.

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They will undergo numerous medical tests including CT scans of the lungs and MRI scans of the heart.

On the other hand, the second phase of the trial will explore two different areas.

Participants who experience symptoms will receive the Regeneron antibody treatment, and all participants will be released from the hospital when they are no longer infectious.

The research will last for a total of 12 months, with eight follow-up appointments following discharge.

Meanwhile, critics of the human challenge trials have pointed out the ethical dangers of infecting people without being sure of its long-term consequences.

The findings could "inform not just vaccine development but also research into the range of effective treatments that are also urgently needed".

Nurses treat a COVID-19 patient in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) at Milton Keynes University Hospital, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Milton Keynes, Britain, Jan 20, 2021.

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