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Live updates as young people offered £5,000 to be reinfected with Covid-19

Young people previously infected with Covid-19 will be paid £5,000 to be reinfected as part of a new trial to see how their immune systems respond to a second infection.

The "human challenge" aims to discover what dose of coronavirus is needed to cause reinfection and how it affects immunity against the disease, as recent research suggests prior infection may not fully protect young people against reinfection.

The University of Oxford will trial those aged 18 to 30 who have previously been naturally infected with Covid-19.

The subjects will be invited to a controlled environment where they will then be re-exposed to the original Wuhan strain, receiving just under £5,000 for their participation.

Those involved in the University of Oxford trial will be quarantined for 17 days and cared for by researchers at a hospital until they are no longer at risk of spreading the virus.

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The study, which is funded by the Wellcome Trust and is expected to start this month after receiving ethics approval and is hoped to have a key role in furthering the development of the vaccine.

Similar human challenge studies have been successful with diseases such as malaria, TB, typhoid, cholera and flu.

A second similar study is ongoing in the UK where volunteers are being infected with coronavirus to test vaccines and treatments.

Helen McShane, professor of vaccinology at the department of paediatrics, University of Oxford and chief investigator on the study, said: “Challenge studies tell us things that other studies cannot because, unlike natural infection, they are tightly controlled.

“When we re-infect these participants, we will know exactly how their immune system has reacted to the first Covid infection, exactly when the second infection occurs, and exactly how much virus they got.

“As well as enhancing our basic understanding, this may help us to design tests that can accurately predict whether people are protected.”

The Oxford study will take phase in two phases.

The first phase, involving 64 healthy volunteers, will aim to establish the lowest dose of virus which can take hold and start replicating.

Once the dosing amount is established, it will be used to infect participants in the second phase of the study, which is expected to start in the summer.

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The full length of the study will be 12 months, which will include eight follow-up appointments after discharge.

Prof McShane said: “We will measure the immune response at several time points after infection so we can understand what immune response is generated by the virus.

“A challenge study allows us to make these measurements very precisely because we know exactly when someone is infected.

“The information from this work will allow us to design better vaccines and treatments, and also to understand if people are protected after having Covid, and for how long.”

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