LONDON, March 22 (Xinhua) -- Britain is the first country in the world to launch the Human Challenge study, which will require up to 90 volunteers aged 18 to 30 years being exposed to coronavirus in a safe and controlled environment to increase understanding of how the virus affects people.
The trial, which has received ethics approval last month, will start soon.
One of those registered volunteers who hopes to be chosen to face the risk upfront is Antony Spagnoli.
Spagnoli, a 22-year-old Master student studying Molecular bio-science at Northampton University, told Xinhua that he didn't even have to think twice about volunteering.
"It just seems like the right thing to do, I'm quite a healthy person, I understand the risks, and the sort of positives that can come from a challenge trial, it sort of motivates me to volunteer...And you know, I can help, for instance, get vaccines delivered to poor countries quicker and push the development cycle on," said Spagnoli.
According to the British government, the study will play a key role in developing effective COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. Human challenge trials over the years have played a vital role in pushing the development of treatments for many diseases, such as malaria and cholera.
But Sapgnoli admits that although he sees the trial as harmless to himself, his mother was initially concerned about his health when joining the trial.
"I know when I spoke to my family about it, my mum was just in bits about it, she really didn't agree. But she's incredibly scared of COVID and everything. But as someone who sort of understands the risks, I feel, you know, there's more chance that I'll do some good than something bad happening to me."
"It's (COVID-19's) had the country in sort of pandemonium for however long, and it's all over the news, and my mum works in a shop herself...I think she's just quite scared. I think it's quite a normal response."
It is understood that volunteers for the trial will be screened to check that they are healthy and have not had the coronavirus before.
After they have been screened, they will have the virus squirted up their nose and then spend 14 days quarantining in hospital while closely monitored by a medical team.
Despite Spagnoli knowingly being infected with the virus, and the risks that may bring to his health, he still believes going ahead with the trial is the right thing to do.
"They can help get vaccines developed quicker and let us get a better understanding of the sort of dangers of a virus quicker. While they do present some risk, if it's consenting adults going in that sort of know the risks, then I don't see why it's any worse off than any other sort of active public service out there, you know, like donating a kidney or something like that," he said.
According to Spagnoli, the more vaccines there are being approved -- the more chance they can go out to countries around the world -- something that challenge trials can speed up in terms of development.
"And it obviously aids in our understanding of how these vaccines work and their efficacy. You can combine the data from challenge trials with data from the other clinical trials, and it gives us a more well-rounded picture. They're definitely justified," he said.
Spagnoli is also confident that challenge trials can help develop vaccines that can cope with new strains of coronavirus.
According to the BBC, initially the study will use the virus that has been circulating in Britain since the pandemic began in March last year, which is of low risk to healthy adults, to deliberately infect volunteers.
In time, a small number of volunteers are likely to be given an approved vaccine and then exposed to the new variants, helping scientists to find out the most effective jabs -- but this phase of the study has not yet been given the go-ahead.
For now, Spagnoli is waiting to finish his last few months at university. He hopes he'll be able to start his placement when the lockdown eases.
During that time, he is expecting a call for a screening for the challenge trial.
"I'm sure that somewhere down the line, I'll be able to help in some way, shape or form," he said.
On Feb. 22, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his long-anticipated "roadmap" exiting the lockdown. The March 8 reopening of schools was first part of the four-step plan which is expected to see all legal restrictions in England being removed by mid-June.
Other parts of Britain, including Wales and Norther Ireland, have also unveiled plans to ease the restrictions.
Experts have warned Britain is "still not out of the woods" amid concerns over new variants and the risks of the public breaching restriction rules.
To bring life back to normal, countries such as Britain, China, Germany, Russia and the United States have been racing against time to roll out coronavirus vaccines. Enditem