It sounds like a dream job. You have to sit around for two weeks doing nothing (nice), are forbidden to exercise and will be in complete isolation (NICE), and you'll get paid £3,500 (around $4,500) for your troubles. There's just one tiny catch: you have to be deliberately infected with a coronavirus.
Researchers in the UK are reportedly looking for 24 volunteers for a medical trial that aims to find a vaccine for COVID-19, the new coronavirus that has killed more than 3,800 worldwide and infected at least 110,000 (the confirmed number of cases at the time of writing).
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause a range of diseases and infections, including Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), the common cold, and now COVID-19. After Chinese researchers released genetic data on the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, researchers around the globe are united in their effort to find a vaccine. According to The Times, Hvivo, which runs the quarantine laboratory at Queen Mary BioEnterprises Innovation Centre in London is one of the many companies developing an injection to fight against COVID-19.
If Hvivo can secure permission from the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, and it secures its volunteers, then the trial will go ahead. It will involve participants being injected with two weaker strains of the coronavirus, 0C43 and 229E, which can cause mild respiratory illness. This will allow the researchers to test out new vaccines and antiviral medications in a controlled environment.
The volunteers will then be quarantined for 14 days and monitored by doctors and nurses in protective gear, who will be their only human contact over the fortnight. Patients will likely experience mild symptoms of a cough or cold, Professor John Oxford, an expert in virology at the Queen Mary University of London told The Times. Swabs and their dirty tissues will be collected in order to measure their viral load.
Prior to the trial, the volunteers will be asked about their medical history and given a series of medical tests, including being screened for antibodies against coronaviruses. “We’ve actually all been exposed to many coronaviruses, which means we could have some kind of underlying immunity to it," Andrew Catchpole, Hvivo’s chief scientist told The Times.
Volunteers will then be inoculated and given a dose of the virus strains.
“If it [a vaccine] works on our little virus, it is very likely to work in the real world," Prof Oxford said.
Several other labs around the world have prototype vaccines for COVID-19, which they have already begun testing on animals. If they go well, testing on humans could begin as early as next month. If those are successful, a vaccine could be widely available early next year.
If you're interested in becoming involved in this trial if it is approved, or other similar trials, you can find details on Hvivo's FluCamp, website.
[H/T: The Times]