Researchers Find Antibody That 'Neutralizes' Coronavirus

Henrietta Strickland
September 16, 2020

Additional uses coming later are to assess relative immunity in those previously infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus and identify asymptomatic individuals with high levels of neutralising antibodies against the virus, said the researchers.

This molecule is ten times smaller than a full-sized antibody. The size also helps in administering the drug by alternative routes, such as inhalation.

According to the report, the drug has been "highly effective in preventing and treating" the SARS-CoV-2 infections in mice and hamsters during tests. Researchers mentioned that the molecule has been used to develop a drug - Ab8 - for potential use as a therapeutic and prophylactic against SARS-CoV-2.

"When we give a vaccine, we induce lots of different antibodies of different potency", said Dr. John Mellors, chief of infectious diseases at UPMC and Pitt.

One of the world's largest efforts to find effective COVID-19 treatments will evaluate the impact of REGN-COV2, an investigational antibody cocktail, on mortality, hospital stays, and the need for ventilation.

While the drug is intended for both treatment and prevention of covid-19, the researchers said it is not meant to replace a vaccine, which is also in development at UPMC and elsewhere.

The small antibody is the variable, heavy chain (VH) domain of an immunoglobulin, a kind of antibody usually found in the blood.

It was combined with part of the immunoglobulin tail area to create Ab8, without the bulk of a full-size antibody.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), University of Columbia, University of Saskatchewan, and University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) already evaluated Ab8's effectiveness. "Here, with this antibody, we're giving a uniform, potent biomolecule that's sole function is to block the virus".

"The new trial will tell us whether antibodies that attack the virus can be an effective treatment for Covid-19". There are good reasons to be excited about this new development - RECOVERY will provide a robust assessment of the effect of this lab-manufactured monoclonal antibody combination treatment in hospitalized patients. "We are looking forward to seeing whether REGN-COV2 is safe and effective in the context of a large-scale randomized clinical trial; this is the only way to be certain about whether it works as a treatment for COVID-19".

Professor Fiona Watt, executive chairwoman of the Medical Research Council, said: "Monoclonal, or targeted, antibodies are already used to treat cancer and autoimmune diseases". Even at the lowest dose, Ab8 decreased by 10-fold the amount of infectious virus in those mice compared to their untreated counterparts. According to Dimitrov, he and his team set out to isolate the gene for one or more antibodies that prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection in order to be able to mass-produce a therapeutic antibody which could overcome some of the limitations associated with convalescent plasma therapy.

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