Chinese scientists find antibodies for COVID-19
Linqi, who posted the findings online, also said that she hopes the antibodies can be tested on humans in six months.
As the COVID-19 pandemic takes over the world, scientists across the globe are scrambling to find a suitable cure for the virus that has now affected over 900,000 people worldwide.
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There is currently no proven treatment for this disease, which originated in China and is spreading across the world at an exponential level.
However, 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, which eventually could help treat COVID-19.
Scientist Zhang Linqi at Tsinghua University in Beijing says a drug made with antibodies like the ones his team has found could be used more effectively than the current options, including what he called "borderline" treatment such as plasma.
Plasma contains antibodies but is restricted by blood type.
"The importance of antibodies has been proven in the world of medicine for decades now. they can be used to treat cancer, autoimmune diseases and infectious diseases. so we have reason to believe that these antibodies we have discovered can be extremely effective on coronavirus patients for both prevention and treatment," Linqi said.
In early January, Zhang’s team and a group at the third people’s hospital in Shenzhen began analysing antibodies from blood taken from recovered COVID-19 patients, isolating 206 monoclonal antibodies which showed a "strong" ability to bind with the virus’ proteins.
Then they conducted another test to see if they could actually prevent the virus from entering cells.
Among the first 20 antibodies tested, four were able to block viral entry and of those, two were "exceedingly good" at doing so, according to Dr Linqi.
"Fortunately we are the first in the world to report the isolation of those antibodies from recovered patients. As we learned from previous experience, those antibodies, in the infectious disease world if able to block our replication will have a great potential to develop into a prevention and treatment drugs. That's why we feel so excited and we reckon this is really the big discovery in our overall effort to treat and prevent SARS COVID 2 (SARS-COV-2) infection," he also said.
Linqi, who posted the findings online, also said that he hopes the antibodies can be tested on humans in six months.
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.
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 due to rapidly rising COVID-19 cases, things are moving faster.