Coronavirus researchers tasked with balancing speed, scientific rigour

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OTTAWA — Researchers in the race against time to provide a proven treatment for COVID-19 will have to balance scientific rigour against speed, according to global experts.

Clinical trials for possible treatments and cures have begun around the world, including an unprecedented international study by the World Health Organization.

But the scientific gold standard to test the efficacy of new, unproven treatments isn’t always practical with new cases of COVID-19 spreading around the world.

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Earl Brown, a professor emeritus of virology at the University of Ottawa, says even in a pandemic, studies still need to meet all the usual scientific checks and balances.

0:59Coronavirus outbreak: COVID-19 vaccine research continues at University of Saskatchewan

Coronavirus outbreak: COVID-19 vaccine research continues at University of Saskatchewan

“They’re likely to push it as far as they can,” Brown said.

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“But you can’t use people as guinea pigs, even if you’re well intentioned.”

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In ideal circumstances, medical studies follow the double-blind process, with neither participants nor researchers knowing which patients were randomly selected to receive the treatment being tested.

But some studies have relaxed those standards in the wake of COVID-19.

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The World Health Organization launched its own massive international study to look into whether existing drugs can be repurposed to treat the viral disease.

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