New trial attempts to reinfect COVID-19 survivors to test immune response

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British scientists on Monday launched a trial that will deliberately re-expose COVID-19 survivors to the coronavirus to examine their immune responses and see if they become reinfected.

The information from the so-called challenge trial “will allow us to design better vaccines and treatments, and also to understand if people are protected after having COVID, and for how long,” said study leader Helen McShane of the University of Oxford.

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The first stage of the trial will seek to establish the lowest dose of the coronavirus needed in order for it to start replicating in about 50% of the volunteers, while producing few to no symptoms.

A second phase will infect different volunteers with that standard dose.

Everyone will quarantine for at least 17 days, and anyone who develops symptoms will receive a monoclonal antibody treatment manufactured by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Researchers leading a separate UK study are administering the virus to volunteers who were not previously infected.

“These challenge studies... will significantly improve our understanding of the dynamics of virus infection and of the immune response, as well as provide valuable information to help with the on-going design of vaccines and the development of anti-viral therapies,” Lawrence Young, a virologist at Warwick Medical School in the UK, said in a statement.

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