Coronavirus challenge trials to get underway in the UK

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Sarah Peddie

The UK Government has signed a contract for the first human challenge studies for the coronavirus where healthy volunteers will be infected with the virus. 

The volunteers will be infected with Covid19 in a controlled setting and some of them will receive an experimental vaccine.

The studies will take place in the Royal Free Hospital in London which contains a Biosafety Level three ward. Up to 19 volunteers will take part in the tests at a time.

Tests will be run by hVIVO - a medical research company that specialises in challenge trials along with Imperial College London. 

Unlike a vaccine trial where volunteers are given an experimental vaccine, in a challenge trial, participants are dosed with the virus. 

People who are for challenge trials are considered far more efficient than vaccine trials and they require less volunteers. Researchers know for certain that everyone taking part will be infected which means they can deliver scientific information a lot quicker. 

Critics worry about the thought of infecting people with a virus there isn’t treatment for. They also say that young and healthy volunteers don’t represent the whole population. 

Alok Sharma, the UK’s Business Secretary said: "We are doing everything we can to fight coronavirus, including backing out best and brightest scientists and researchers in their hunt for a safe and effective vaccine."

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