Scientists are developing a new strain of coronavirus to deliberately infect people
American scientists have begun production of a new strain of coronavirus that can be used in research on the response of the human immune system to a vaccine. In a similar study, healthy volunteers would be vaccinated and then deliberately infected with the virus. Writes about it Reuters.
The work is preliminary and will not replace large-scale Phase 3 trials, such as those currently underway in the United States, where experimental COVID-19 vaccines are being tested from Moderna Inc (MRNA.O) and Pfizer Inc (PFE.N ).
Several drug makers, including AstraZeneca (AZN.L) and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N), said they would consider testing a COVID-19 vaccine in humans if necessary.
"If there is a need for human infection research to fully evaluate candidate vaccines or therapeutics for SARS-CoV-2, NIAID will begin research into the technical and ethical aspects of human infection," the agency said in a statement.
This includes efforts to produce a suitable SARS-CoV-2 strain, develop a clinical protocol, and identify the resources that will be required to conduct such research.
Small contamination studies will be conducted in small isolation wards. The larger ones, involving approximately 100 people, were to be conducted in multiple locations, adding months of preparation to coordinate research.
Such tests are usually done when the virus is not widespread, which is not the case for COVID-19. Many scientists consider human testing of the new coronavirus unethical because there are no “rescue methods” for those who are sick.
Johan Van Hoof, Chief Vaccine Specialist at J&J, said preparations for such trials are underway around the world and the company is monitoring this.
Van Hoof said such trials would offer a testing option in the event that the virus stops spreading widely, but the company will continue such trials only if ethical concerns are resolved and effective treatment is available.
Dr. Anna Durbin, a vaccine researcher at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health that has conducted a dozen contamination trials, estimates that the process in humans could take 9 to 12 months.
Dr. Dan Barush, a vaccine researcher at Harvard's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston who helped develop and test the COVID-19 J&J vaccine in animals, said he was unaware of any manufacturers planning to conduct human studies.
“In the context of a raging pandemic, this is not necessary. Just try it and get real results, ”he said.
According to Dr. Kathleen Neuzil of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, which tests vaccines against COVID-19, such trials should be conducted in healthy young people.
“The 20-year-old boy in the study really won’t know if this vaccine will keep an older person or someone with chronic kidney disease from going to the hospital,” she said.
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