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The Scientist

Challenge Trials on the Table for COVID

Challenge trials, so called because they "challenge" a volunteer with deliberate infection after they receive a trial drug or vaccine, are controversial at the best of times. The idea has been raised for COVID-19 vaccine and treatment trials, with mixed response from the scientific community.

The idea would be to conduct a controlled exposure to mimic what a patient might encounter in the real world. Challenge trials have been conducted in the past for the flu and H1N1 viruses. Dr. Matthew Memoli, Director of the Laboratory of Infectious Diseases (LID) Clinical Studies Unit (CSU), is designing possible challenge trials for COVID.

"I only want to be doing it if it really is truly something that is beneficial,” Memoli says in this article from The Scientist.

In designing the trial, researchers must factor in many possible scenarios. Volunteers must be promised the best possible care if they do get sick, and they must be isolated to prevent the spread to others. The strain, dose, and administration of the virus must be considered, and all ethical issues must be raised and addressed. Head to The Scientist to read more about these potential studies.