Dozens volunteer to be reinfected with COVID-19 in human challenge study

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – What happens to fully vaccinated people who already had the coronavirus, but then get reinfected?

Scientists at the University of Oxford are trying to find out.

They recently launched what’s called a human challenge trial — an experiment that involves purposefully infecting a person with a virus or other pathogen in order to study how the immune system responds. 

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But is this safe? 

“We’ve done human challenge trials from decades to centuries,” Dr. Cole Beeler, infectious disease expert at IU Health, told News 8. “As long as people understand the risks and know what’s going on and the patient in the subset has a very low probability of having a bad outcome, this would give us data that we need.”

The 64 participants are between the ages of 18 and 30. All recovered from COVID-19 and have been fully vaccinated. As part of the trial, they have agreed to be reinfected with the original Wuhan strain.

Researchers chose this group because they are less likely to get seriously ill. 

“The findings could have important implications for how we handle COVID-19 in the future and inform not just vaccine development, but also research into the range of effective treatments that are also urgently needed,” Oxford researchers said in a news release.

They hope this research will help the world get the pandemic under control. Infection after vaccination is possible, but not much is known about it. In fact, studies have been conducted right here at the Indiana University School of Medicine using other pathogens. 

“It really gives you a unique understanding of how the body is going to react in a closely monitored environment that provides invaluable data for how to approach treatments,” Beeler said.