Many laboratories around the world are trying to produce a vaccine against COVID 19 disease. What if the solution is a drug? In China, researchers say they have developed an antibody-based treatment that can provide immediate temporary immunity to the virus and thus stop the pandemic.
Some 100 laboratories around the world are competing to produce a vaccine against the new coronavirus, but researchers in China say they have already developed a treatment that could stop the epidemic. A drug currently being tested at the renowned Beijing University (Beida) would not only speed up the healing process for patients, but also provide temporary immunity to Covid-19. In an interview with AFP, Sunney Xie, Director of the Center for Advanced Genomic Innovation in Beida, explains that the treatment works in mice. Her lab took the antibodies of 60 patients cured of the disease before injecting the rodents.
On the road to a possible cure for the disease
“After five days, the viral load of the mice was divided by 2500, he says.” That means this potential drug has a therapeutic effect. A study of this research was published in the journal Cell on Sunday. The study sees it as a possible ‘cure’ for the disease and finds that it may speed up the healing process. “We are experts in single-cell sequencing, not immunologists or virologists,” said Professor Xie. “When we discovered that our approach was capable of finding a neutralizing antibody to the virus, we were delighted.”
We’re hoping that these antibodies will turn into a medication
According to him, the treatment could be available before the end of the year, in time for a second wave of Covid-19 if it ever takes place. The first wave broke out in China at the end of last year and has already contaminated 4.5 million people worldwide and caused more than 316,000 dead. “Preparations for clinical trials are underway,” he said, adding that they will be conducted in Australia and other countries. When the epidemic in China subsided, the Asian giant did not have enough carriers of the virus to conduct human trials. “We hope that these antibodies will become a special drug that will stop the pandemic,” he said.
Could be available before vaccines
Although more than 100 laboratories around the world have begun searching for a vaccine, the World Health Organization warned that the vaccine may not be available for another 12 to 18 months. Therefore, an antibody-based treatment could reach the population more quickly.
In China, more than 700 patients have already received convalescent plasma (a blood component) from cured patients, a technique that has been shown to have “very good effects” according to health authorities. But the amount of plasma available “is limited,” says Professor Xie. The 14 antibodies used in his research could be rapidly replicated on a large scale, he said. This approach has already been used successfully to combat other viruses such as HIV, Ebola and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). A treatment for Ebola, known as Remdesivir, has worked well in the United States against Covid-19 and has accelerated patient recovery without significantly reducing mortality.
According to Professor Xie, the treatment developed in Beijing may provide immediate temporary immunity to the virus. The study showed that the mice remained immune to the infection when they are injected with antibodies before the virus is administered. This could protect the guardians for a few weeks or even months, the Chinese specialist hopes. “We could stop the pandemic with a treatment that works even without a vaccine,” he hopes.