Since the 1940s, researchers have purposefully infected healthy adult humans with pathogenic organisms to study how these pathogens cause disease and can be treated and prevented. 'Challenge studies' can be safe, ethical, extremely informative and an efficient use of resources during the clinical development of vaccines, but knowledge of this form of clinical research trial is not widespread. A review of the human challenge literature was performed to determine whether common elements of challenge studies can be identified in the articles published to date. The review demonstrated incomplete reporting of study characteristics deemed necessary for the correct interpretation and application of human challenge study results and for the accurate replication of study methodology. An unofficial extension of the Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) statement is proposed.