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Volunteering to become ill to help researchers

Radboudumc has combined its research into controlled human infection models to create a new program: the Radboudumc Controlled Human Infection Models (RCHIM). By studying the interaction between pathogens and humans under controlled conditions, researchers can improve their understanding of the underlying disease mechanisms. This understanding contributes to a more targeted development of medicines and vaccines and to improved control of infectious diseases. For the time being, the RCHIM is conducting research into malaria, sepsis and respiratory infections.

Infectious diseases are a constant threat to our health. Effective medicines and vaccines are therefore essential to control them. However, the development of new medicines and vaccines is costly and time-consuming, so researchers are looking for more efficient ways to do this development. One promising approach is to improve our understanding of the mechanisms of infection in humans. To accomplish this, clinical research focusing directly on infection mechanisms in humans is crucial, but this research must obviously be safe.

Malaria, sepsis and respiratory infections

With this underlying idea, several controlled human infection models have been developed at the Radboudumc in recent years, including models for malaria and sepsis. The Radboudumc Center for Infectious Diseases has now included these models in the new research program, which is called the Radboudumc Controlled Human Infection Models (RCHIM). The initial focus will be on models for malaria, sepsis and respiratory infections in humans. Models for other infectious diseases will be added over time.

Safety of participants is paramount

In controlled human infections, selected healthy volunteers receive – after approval by the medical ethics committee – a small dose of a well-characterized microorganism (or a component of the microorganism). Then the volunteers are carefully monitored and treated. Controlled human infection models must comply with strict laws and regulations, with the safety of the participants always being paramount.

400 volunteers

Peter Pickkers, Professor of Experimental Intensive Care Medicine, theme Infectious diseases and global health, explains this approach: “These models are an essential part of pharmaceutical research. They are needed for translating experimental results from animal models to a model that is useful for human patients.” Robert Sauerwein, Professor of Medical Parasitology, theme Infectious diseases and global health, adds: “Approximately 400 volunteers have participated in our controlled human malaria studies so far. With this initiative, we are joining forces at Radboudumc to further improve quality and efficiency in this field.”

For more information, go to: www.radboudumc.nl/rchim.

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