The historic human challenge is set to begin in the next few weeks and will involve up to 90 carefully-selected, healthy adults — between ages 18 and 30 — being exposed to the virus in “a safe and controlled environment”.
Young people are therefore being invited to sign up as volunteers.
According to a statement from the UK government: “This initial study will also help doctors understand how the immune system reacts to coronavirus and identify factors that influence how the virus is transmitted, including how a person who is infected with COVID-19 transmits infectious virus particles into the environment.”
Scientists are also hoping to pick up clues that can lead to the development of more vaccines to fight the virus.
The UK was the first country to issue COVID-19 doses, and up to last week, some 15 million doses were issued.
Scientists say young adults were chosen for the study because the strain of the virus that will be used is of low risk in young healthy adults.
That strain is the one that has been circulating in the UK since March 2020.
After being infected with the virus, medics and scientists will closely monitor the effect on volunteers and will be on hand to look after them 24 hours a day.
The UK government has put aside some £33.6 million for the study. A BBC report says “volunteers will be compensated for their time, to the tune of around £4,500 over the course of a year, which will include follow-up tests”.
Once this initial infection has taken place, vaccines that have been approved will be given to small numbers of volunteers, helping to identify the most effective vaccines and accelerate their development.
However, this phase of the study hasn’t been approved by the UK ethics board.