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Reviews |  Would you let a scientist infect you with Covid?

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The aim of the study was to identify the lowest amount of virus to infect someone safely and reliably, so that researchers could later easily test the effectiveness of vaccines or antivirals on future volunteers. ‘provocation tests. “Of course, by doing that, you learn a lot about the actual disease, which we actually have,” said Dr Andrew Catchpole, scientific director of hVIVO, a UK clinical and laboratory services company that has partnered with Imperial College London to conduct the UK Covid-19 Challenge Study.

The volunteers were infected with the original strain of SARS-CoV-2 first discovered in Wuhan, China. A Delta strain is under development for use in possible subsequent challenge trials. “Coronaviruses do not go away and there will be a continued risk of the emergence of new, highly pathogenic coronaviruses,” said Dr Chiu. “We need to better understand these immune factors in order to be better prepared for the next pandemic when it occurs. “

Dr Fauci’s office said the institute has no plans to fund Covid-19 human provocation trials in the future. Many bioethicists support this decision. “We are not asking people to sacrifice themselves for the good of society,” said Jeffrey Kahn, director of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics. “In the United States, we go to great lengths to protect individual rights, individual life, health and liberty, while in more communal societies, this is for the greater good.

But Josh Morrison, co-founder of 1Day Sooner, which advocates for more than 40,000 potential human challenges volunteers, argues that it should be his and others’ right to take risks for the greater good. “Most people won’t want to participate in a Covid challenge study, and that’s totally fine, but they shouldn’t project their own choices onto others,” he said.

Not that human challenge test participants aren’t compensated for their problems – around $ 6,000 for Covid-19 challenge volunteers and free in-country vacations, including accommodation, meals, and incidentals , for those who participated in studies at the Common Cold Unit (which closed in 1990 when its funding was withdrawn for AIDS research).

But judging from records and recent interviews with challenge participants, the real driver was, and still is, a desire to be of service. The prospect of helping humanity made the volunteers feel good, they said, and gave them a sense of agency – whether in the aftermath of World War II or now in the uncertain days of ‘a global pandemic.

As one participant in Britain’s Covid human challenge trial put it: “You know the phrase ‘an interesting fact about yourself’ that terrorizes everyone? It is now resolved forever. I did something that made a difference.

Kate Murphy is the author of “You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters”.

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