The UK is investing millions of pounds into a human SARS-CoV-2 challenge study in which healthy volunteers will be given the virus in the hopes of better understanding infections and accelerating vaccine development, according to Reuters.
It adds that the UK is investing £33.6 million (US $43.5 million) in the study, which is to be run jointly by Imperial College London, the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, and the lab and clinical trial services company hVivo. The trial aims to initially enroll up to 90 healthy volunteers between the ages of 18 and 30 to receive controlled doses of the virus to gauge the minimum amount of virus to which someone has to be exposed to cause COVID-19.
Critics of human challenge studies argue that deliberately exposing people to a potentially deadly disease with no cure is unethical, Reuters adds.
"Deliberately infecting volunteers with a known human pathogen is never undertaken lightly," study co-investigator Peter Openshaw tells the Associated Press. "However, such studies are enormously informative about a disease, even one so well studied as COVID-19."