British scientists are testing a new drug that could provide instant immunity against the Coronavirus caused disease. According to experts, this new antibody therapy might be available by March 2021.
Reports said that the drug, which is currently under trial, could be given as an emergency treatment to care home residents and patients at hospitals. Experts believe that this new treatment could save thousands of lives.
People living in households where someone has caught the disease could be given the drug to make sure that they are safe from COVID-19. The therapy could be also provided to university students as the virus could spread rapidly because of the way they live, study, and socialize together.
The Antibody Treatment
Dr. Catherine Houlihan, a virologist at University College London Hospitals NHS Trust (UCLH), is leading the study dubbed Storm Chaser. "If we can prove that this treatment works and prevent people who are exposed to the virus going on to develop COVID-19, it would be an exciting addition to the arsenal of weapons being developed to fight this dreadful virus," said Dr. Houlihan.
This drug against COVID-19 has been developed by UCLH and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, which also made a vaccine against the virus along with the University of Oxford. The vaccine is expected to get approval from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the UK next week.
However, the objective behind the trial is to find an antibody that could provide protection to patients when it would be too late to offer a vaccine. The experts believe that the antibody, AZD7442, may offer immediate and long-term protection to people who have recently been exposed to the disease. Scientists who are conducting the trial hope that the study will show the antibodies give protecttion against the SARS-CoV-2 infection for between six and 12 months.
As reported by the Guardian, if this trial shows hopeful results, the antibody treatment could help reduce the impact of the Coronavirus until everyone in UK is vaccinated. While describing the advantage of this drug, Dr. Houlihan said that it would give people immediate antibodies.
As of now, UCLH has injected 10 people with the newly developed drug as part of Storm Chaser. It happened after the study entered phase three trial on December 2 with an aim to administrate the drug to 1, 125 people worldwide.
Mene Pangalos, AstraZeneca's executive vice president, said the antibody has the potential to be "an important preventative and therapeutic medicine against COVID-19, focusing on the most vulnerable patients".
In another trial, Provent, researchers are examining whether the drug could help people with compromised immune systems, or those at increased risk of Coronavirus infection due to factors such as age and existing health conditions. Older individuals and those in long-term care, as well as people with health issues such as HIV, will be recruited to take part in this trial.
Dr. Nicky Longley, infectious disease consultant at UCLH, said: "We want to reassure anyone for whom a vaccine may not work that we can offer an alternative which is just as protective."
Professor Stephen Powis, NHS England national medical director said that these two clinical trials—Provent and Strom Chaser—are an important addition to testing new therapeutic approaches. "Antibody treatments may offer an alternative to patient groups who cannot benefit from a vaccine, such as immunocompromised patients," said Prof Powis.
Researchers involved in both the trials will investigate whether the new treatment reduces the risk of developing COVID-19 and reduces the severity of infection compared to a placebo.
Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia said: "Providing it's borne out in phase three trials, it [the drug] could play a big role in keeping alive people who would otherwise die. So it should be a big thing."