Scientists in London Paying People $4,000 to Get Infected With Coronaviruses to Help Find COVID-19 Vaccine and Treatments

As scientists race to develop treatments and vaccines for the COVID-19 virus, one facility in London is looking for volunteers to be infected with a coronavirus to help with research.

hVIVO, an arm of a pharmaceutical company based in the U.K. capital, is looking for 24 people to be infected with common strains of a member of the large coronavirus family of pathogens which the new coronavirus is also a member of.

The bug isn't the same as the COVID-19 virus, but close enough for biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies to safely test vaccines and antiviral drugs to fight the new coronavirus on participants.

The volunteers will be paid £3,500 ($4,380) according to The Times. To qualify, they must be must be healthy, aged between 18-55 years old, non-smokers, and have a verifiable medical history, Cathal Friel, executive chairman of Open Orphan, the company of which hVIVO is a subsidiary, told Newsweek.

To keep participants safe, the team will use strains like OC43 and 229E, which have been widespread "for many years and cause only a mild cold-like respiratory illness" according to a statement by hVIVO.

The catch? Participants must be comfortable with being quarantined for up to 14 days at the clinic.

The facility, known as FluCamp because of its usual focus on fighting the flu and common cold, has 24 hospital-like private rooms with en suite showers, toilets, and access to TV and WiFi. Participants must keep to a "strict" routine, and eat a nutritionally controlled diet and abstain for alcohol, smoking and exercise.

Friel stresses of the 3,000 volunteers to stay at FluCamp, none have had an adverse reaction, and the three to leave did so due to family emergencies.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 started in Wuhan, over 4,700 people worldwide have died in over 127,000 cases, according to a dashboard tracking the virus by Johns Hopkins University. More than 68,000 people who have tested positive for the virus have recovered.

Most of the deaths have occurred in Hubei, at over 3,000. The virus has spread to every continent except Antarctica, as shown in the Statista map below. There are currently no treatments or vaccines, and those who fall ill must manage their symptoms, which in severe cases requires hospital treatment.

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A map showing the spread of COVID-19 as of March 12. Statista

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before; during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • If you feel unwell (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and call local health authorities in advance.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
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Scientists pictured at work at a French laboratory, unrelated to the trial in London, on February 5, 2020. JEFF PACHOUD/AFP via Getty Images