Chinese scientists find 'effective' antibodies for COVID-19
A team of Chinese scientists has isolated several antibodies that it says are “extremely effective” at blocking the ability of the new coronavirus to enter cells.
This will eventually could be helpful in treating or preventing COVID-19, Reuters reports.
There is currently no proven effective treatment for the disease, which originated in China.
Developing new vaccines may take at least 18 months in the most optimistic scenario, researchers warn.
A drug made with antibodies - better than plasma
Zhang Linqi at Tsinghua University in Beijing said a drug made with antibodies like the ones his team have found could be used more effectively than the current approaches, including what he called “borderline” treatment such as plasma.
Plasma contains antibodies but is restricted by blood type.
In January Zhang’s team and a group at the 3rd People’s Hospital in Shenzhen began analysing antibodies from blood taken from recovered COVID-19 patients, isolating 206 monoclonal antibodies which showed what he described as a “strong” ability to bind with the virus’ proteins.
They then conducted another test to see if they could actually prevent the virus from entering cells, he told Reuters in an interview.
Four antibodies were able to block viral entry
Among the first 20 or so antibodies tested, four were able to block viral entry and of those, two were “exceedingly good” at doing so, Zhang said.
The team is now focused on identifying the most powerful antibodies and possibly combining them to mitigate the risk of the new coronavirus mutating.
If all goes well, interested developers could mass produce them for testing, first on animals and eventually on humans.
The group has partnered with a Sino-U.S. biotech firm, Brii Biosciences, in an effort “to advance multiple candidates for prophylactic and therapeutic intervention”, according to a statement by Brii.
The antibodies are not a vaccine
The antibodies are not a vaccine but could potentially be given to at-risk people with the aim of preventing them from contracting COVID-19.
Normally it takes around two years for a drug even to get close to approval for use on patients, but the COVID-19 pandemic means things are moving faster, Zhang said, with steps that would previously be taken sequentially now being done in parallel.