Chinese scientists looking for potential COVID-19 treatment find “effective” antibodies

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BEIJING (Reuters) – A team of Chinese scientists has isolated several antibodies that it says are “extremely effective” in blocking the ability of the new coronavirus to enter cells, which could potentially be useful in the treatment or prevention of COVID-19.

There is currently no proven effective treatment for the disease, which originated in China and is spreading around the world in a pandemic that has infected more than 850,000 people and killed 42,000 people.

Zhang Linqi of Tsinghua University in Beijing said that a drug made with antibodies like the ones his team found could be used more effectively than current approaches, including what he called “borderline” treatment. than plasma.

The plasma contains antibodies but is limited by the blood group.

In early January, Zhang’s team and a group from the 3rd Shenzhen People’s Hospital began to analyze the blood antibodies collected from the recovered COVID-19 patients, isolating 206 monoclonal antibodies which showed what he described as a “Strong” ability to bind to the virus “proteins.

They then carried out another test to see if they could actually prevent the virus from entering the cells, he told Reuters in an interview.

Of the first 20 or so antibodies tested, four were able to block viral entry and of these, two were “extremely good” at doing so, said Zhang.

Scientist works in Linqi Zhang’s laboratory to research anti-coronavirus antibodies (COVID-19) for possible use in a drug at the Tsinghua University Public Health Research Center in Beijing, China, March 30 2020. REUTERS / Thomas Peter

The team is now focusing on identifying the most potent antibodies and possibly combining them to reduce the risk of mutation of the new coronavirus.

If all goes well, interested developers could mass produce them for testing, first on animals and possibly on humans.

The group has partnered with a Chinese-American biotechnology company, Brii Biosciences, in an effort to “advance several candidates for prophylactic and therapeutic intervention,” according to a statement from Brii.

“The importance of antibodies has been proven in the medical world for decades,” said Zhang. “They can be used to treat cancer, autoimmune diseases and infectious diseases.”

The antibodies are not a vaccine but could potentially be given to people at risk to prevent them from contracting COVID-19.

Normally, it takes about two years for a drug to even approach approval for use in patients, but the COVID-19 pandemic means things are moving faster, he said, with steps that were previously taken sequentially and are now done in parallel.

Zhang, who published the results online, hopes the antibodies can be tested on humans in six months. If they are found to be effective in trials, their actual use for treatment would take longer.

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Other experts call for caution.

“There are a number of steps that will now need to be taken before it can be used as a treatment for patients with coronavirus,” said Ben Cowling, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Hong Kong when the discovery told him has been described by Reuters.

“But it’s really exciting to find these potential treatments and then have the chance to test them. Because if we can find more candidates, we will end up getting better treatment, ”said Cowling.

Additional reporting by Roxanne Liu; Editing by Kim Coghill; Editing by Tony Munroe, Kate Kelland and Kim Coghill

Our standards:Principles of the Thomson Reuters Trust.

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