UK Begins First COVID-19 Human Challenge Trial

March 30, 2021

On February 17, 2021, the UK approved the world’s first COVID-19 human challenge trial. The trial includes infecting up to 90 healthy participants with the virus and tracking just how it affects the human body, in an effort to aid the development of new vaccines and treatments for the novel coronavirus. This trial differs from typical clinical trials in that participants are not receiving an experimental vaccine but rather the pathogen itself. 

As of March 25, three volunteers who had been exposed to SARS-CoV-2 via nasal droplets finished quarantining at the Royal Free Hospital in London and will continue to be monitored by a clinical team (1). These three patients did not experience unexpected issues or complications, and “are in good health(1). While further details of the study – including symptoms – will be kept confidential, researchers are recruiting more healthy volunteers between the ages of 18-30 to “establish the lowest possible dose of virus needed to cause viral replication in the nose and throat” (1). This study will also assist in understanding the progression of the virus once inside the body, natural immune response, and transmission.