Britain OKs challenge trial exposing volunteers to COVID-19

Britain became the first country in the world on Wednesday to give the go-ahead for human challenge trials in which volunteers will deliberately be exposed to COVID-19 to advance research into the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The trial, which gained approval from the country’s clinical ethics body last week, is due to start within a month. It will see up to 90 healthy volunteers aged between 18 and 30 exposed to the smallest amount of the virus needed to cause infection, scientists behind the plans said.

Volunteers will be screened for possible health risks before being allowed to take part and kept in quarantine for close monitoring by medical staff for at least 14 days in a specialist unit at London’s Royal Free Hospital.

Scientists have used human challenge trials for decades to learn more about diseases such as malaria, flu, typhoid and cholera, and to develop treatments and vaccines against them.

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