Scientists from China have been developing a drug that might stop the coronavirus pandemic. The drug is being tested at China's Peking University. In addition to the drug's ability to shorten the time taken to recover from COVID-19, it has also offered short-term immunity from the coronavirus, said the researchers.
Sunney Xie, who is the director of the Beijing Advanced Innovation Centre for Genomics in the University, told AFP that this drug was successful when tested on animals.
Viral Load Reduced by a Factor of 2,500
Five days after the researchers injected coronavirus neutralizing antibodies into mice infected with SARS-CoV-2, "the viral load was reduced by a factor of 2,500," said Xie. This showed that the potential drug had a therapeutic effect.
This particular drug uses neutralizing antibodies that are produced by the human immune system that prevents the virus from infecting cells. The research team isolated these antibodies from the blood of almost 60 COVID-19 recovered patients.
A research paper was published in the scientific journal Cell, suggesting that antibody usage might prove to be a potential "cure" for COVID-19 as it shortened the recovery time of patients and also offered a short-term immunity from novel coronavirus.
Xie's team worked "day and night" in looking for the right antibody. Their expertise on single-cell genomics proved to be effective in finding this antibody rather than immunology or virology, according to the report.
Drug Might Cater to a Potential Winter Outbreak
The drug would be ready for use later this year and might cater to a potential winter outbreak of the coronavirus. The team is planning for clinical trials, Xie said, adding that it will be carried out in Australia and other countries as the number of cases came down in China.
Further, the researchers hope that these neutralized antibodies could become "a specialized drug that would stop the pandemic." The country has five potential coronavirus vaccines currently in the human trial stage.
What About Vaccines and Plasma Therapy?
However, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said that the vaccine is 12 to 18 months away. Another report said that the Oxford vaccine had failed to prevent coronavirus spread in monkeys though it protected them from pneumonia.
Scientists have also highlighted the benefits of plasma taken from recovered individuals, as they develop antibodies to the coronavirus. Not less than 700 patients received the plasma therapy in China that had good therapeutic effects, as authorities say.
However, such plasma is in limited supply. Xie said that 14 neutralizing antibodies that were used in their drug might get into mass production soon. The drug could offer temporary protection for front line workers for a number of weeks. The team hopes to "extend to a few months," Xie said, according to France 24.
Not less than 100 vaccines are being developed globally to fight the coronvirus pandemic that has killed over 320,180 worldwide. Xie hopes that their drug could prove to be faster and more efficient in stopping the global pandemic, even without a vaccine.