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Professor, 69, risked his life by deliberately catching COVID-19 to test his immune response

By The Siberian Times reporter
28 October 2020

Alexander Chepurnov had already recovered once when he re-infected himself in an experiment.

A former researcher at the Vector Centre of Virology and Biotechnology, and current senior researcher at the Institute of Clinical and Experimental medicine, professor of virology Chepurnov first got infected at the end of February 2020. Picture: Alexander Chepurnov


The virologist experimented with his own health to check how long the body’s immune response lasted after his first bout of  COVID-19.

A former researcher at the Vector Centre of Virology and Biotechnology who currently works at the Institute of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Chepurnov was first infected at the end of February 2020. 

‘I was on my way to a skiing holiday from Siberia to France with a stopover in Moscow,’ he said. ‘After getting to the mountains I felt unwell with a high fever and sharp chest pain. My sense of smell has gone, too.’

It was impossible back then to do a COVID-19 test in Europe, he told Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper in Novosibirsk

Professor, 69, risked his life by deliberately infecting himself with COVID-19 to test his immune response 
Alexander Chepurnov, 69 now and 68 when he was first hit by COVID-19, said that he wanted to study the probability of getting re-infected


He cut the holiday short, returned home to Novosibirsk, and was promptly diagnosed with double pneumonia. 

A month later in March he did a test which showed antibodies to Covid, confirming that he had been infected with the new virus.

‘I was the first in my team who had COVID-19,’ he said. ‘We started to follow the way antibodies ‘behaved’, how strong they were, and how long they stayed in the body. 

‘The observation showed that they were fast to decrease. By the end of the third month from the moment I felt sick the antibodies were no longer detected.’ 

The scientist, 68 when he was first hit by COVID-19, said that he wanted to study the probability of getting re-infected. 

Professor, 69, risked his life by deliberately infecting himself with COVID-19 to test his immune response 
Alexander Chepurnov's conclusion is that there will be no collective immunity to coronavirus despite earlier hopes. Picture: Alexander Chepurnov


To test the strength of his own immune response, Chepurnov deliberately exposed himself to COVID-19-positive patients wearing no protection.

‘My body’s defence fell exactly six months after I got the first infection. The first sign was a sore throat. The nasopharyngeal PCR smear immediately showed a positive reaction to COVID-19 on the 27th cycle, and two days later already on the 17th cycle, which corresponds to a high viral titre’, Chepurnov said of the second bout.

The second illness was more acute, with Chepurnov needing hospitalisation after his saturation fell below 93.

‘For five days, my body temperature remained above 39C,’ he said. ‘I lost the sense of smell, my taste perception changed. 

‘On the sixth day of the illness, the CT scan of the lungs was clear, and three days after the scan the X-ray showed double pneumonia.

‘The virus went away rather quickly - after two weeks it was no longer detected in the nasopharyngeal or in other samples.’

Professor, 69, risked his life by deliberately infecting himself with COVID-19 to test his immune response 


Professor, 69, risked his life by deliberately infecting himself with COVID-19 to test his immune response 


Professor, 69, risked his life by deliberately infecting himself with COVID-19 to test his immune response 
EpiVacCorona and SputnikV COVID-19 vaccines, and researchers at Vector's centre of virology and biotechnology. Pictures: Vector, Russian Ministry of Health


His conclusion is that there will be no collective immunity to coronavirus despite earlier hopes.

The virus is here to stay for a long while, and while vaccines may give immunity this is likely to be temporary. 

‘We need a vaccine that can be used multiple times, a recombinant vaccine will not suit,’ he said.

‘Once injected with the adenoviral vector-based vaccine we won’t be able to repeat it because the immunity against the adenoviral carrier will keep interfering.’

His former employer Vector centre is manufacturing Russia's second vaccine which will require a repeat dose. 

Comments (4)

Well that Professor is either fully mad or fully invincible doing what he just did. Secondly & of late there is a new mutation in Denmark, Italy, Spain, USA, Sweden & Netherlands, that has jumped from mink to humans & is threatening to be another Pandemic throughout the world unless its contained & eradicated quickly. There are at least 255 people who have caught same in Northern Denmark & it is closed off from the rest of Denmark for fear of it spreading if it hasn't already.

This strain of virus is not inhibited to the vaccines that have come out or are being created throughout the medical/scientific world. In other words there is no virus to combat this strain so the work to find one will have to start again if even a vaccine can be found for this strain. This strain is called "Cluster 5" till a more apt name is thought up for it. So again, Professor, well done, but don't try that with this new version. Stay safe all.
Jaker, Dundalk
09/11/2020 11:41
0
1
A very brave man looking for answers and cures rather than fame and fortune or trying to control the narrative. Very nice to read articles about such people.
Brian Erdrich, Anchorage Alaska
03/11/2020 10:04
4
0
Courageous experiment, and interesting article.

However one major question remains from the final part of the article: what if you can only get inoculated with an adenovirus-vector based vaccine?

The so-called "Oxford" vaccine is adenovirus-vector based, and is expected to be one of the most commonly available vaccines in Europe and parts of Asia for example, at least as part of the "first wave" of vaccines.

So the question many people would have now is: if the only choice for the first vaccination is an adenovirus-based one like the "Oxford" vaccine, can repeat inoculations still be effective, if the second and further vaccines would be of a different type (such as deactivated covid virus-based)?

Or would a first inoculation with an adenovirus-vector vaccine spoil any further chance of re-inoculation in future?

Perhaps the author of the article could ask the professor for an opinion on this? Thanks :-)
Sergio Valdez, Batumi, Georgia
02/11/2020 17:57
20
0
I admire the professors work at learning more about the virus but that was very risky way to find out. However thank you professor for advancing knowledge on this virus I am sure it will help all concerned.
STEPHEN BEDARD, LADYSMITH/CANADA
30/10/2020 05:14
4
0
1

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