“Tuberculosis (also known as TB) is a disease which affects more and more people in this country each year and is responsible for more deaths worldwide than any other infectious disease. BCG (Bacille Calmette-Guérin) is the only vaccine currently in use against TB, but it is not always protective. BCG works well against disease in childhood, but it is not good enough at protecting against disease in adulthood, which leads to the majority of TB deaths.” – University of Oxford
I first heard about clinical trials through a friends boyfriend who regularly participates in cognitive tests and psychology studies at the local university research centres. He mentioned that they happened to pay quite well – which peaked my interest. After some light googling later that day I had unfortunately not found anything that I was eligible for. However, the internet and all its magic cookies that store data worked in such a way that an add appeared on my facebook feed saying that Oxford University were looking or participants in a trial for a new vaccine. I clicked the link, did some reading and within minutes I was filling out a pre-screening form.
The trial is being held to find a new cure for TB which can be administered to adults that did not receive the pre-existing BCG vaccine (which is not very effective in adults, curing only 30% of cases). I soon received an email and accompanying paperwork saying I was indeed eligible for the trial, and that I needed to book a screening appointment. The paperwork described how the trial will work, which I shall briefly describe:
- There will be two groups of participants. Participants will not know which group they are in.
- One group is administered a BCG vaccine and a placebo ‘new’ vaccine, where the other is given a placebo BCG and the real ‘new’ vaccine.
- From here, more blood tests are done to determine how the ‘new’ vaccine works in adults compared to the existing BCG.
- The ‘new’ drug will be tested at more dosages.
So I weighed out the risk of catching TB against the financial compensations that I would receive after 5 visits across 6 months and decided to book myself a screening appointment.
I showed up at the Churchill Hospital this morning on the CCVTM ward (Clinical Centre for Vaccinology and Tropical Medicine) and was greeted by Dr Julia Marshall, the lead doctor of the study. We discussed the trial at length and talked through the risks of everything that could possibly happen. Once I had asked several annoying questions, such as ‘can I die?’ and she said ‘no’ I signed a consent form that called my blood ‘a gift’.
Screening tests themselves are to ensure that I am healthy enough to continue with the study and that there isn’t any problems with my immune system that might cause me to be at a greater risk of developing a bad case of TB. First she took some blood – she filled about 7 3-inch vials. That was not fun. I also did a urine test, to check kidney function and pregnancy (at least I know that nexplanon is working). I also had to do lung function tests, and then I had to go for a full chest X-Ray.
After all these tests we then had to fill out lots of paperwork about my family’s health and my medical history. I was eventually allowed to go home after a very exhausting experience being a lab rat. If my bloodwork gets through and my GP contacts the vaccinology department by the end of the week, I shall be off to receive my vaccinations around April 18th!
I plan to write about each stage of the process in order to keep family and friends updated, and also to share my experience with others who are considering taking part in one of these trials.
Thanks for reading ❤