How antibody drugs are different from vaccines

New Delhi, Delhi, IndiaUpdated: May 06, 2020, 08:51 PM IST

File photo. Photograph:(AFP)

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Antibody drugs are a cure, they cannot offer immunity to a population that has not been infected.

In the absence of a COVID-19 vaccine, antibody drugs are being touted as the next best thing. 

Antibodies are created by our body's immune system. Scientists can harvest and then isolate them from a recovered patient's body. Israel and the Netherlands have had success in doing it.

Once antibodies are isolated, their genetic formula can be studied and replicated on a mass scale. The human body creates hundreds of antibodies - each specific to different pathogens.

It defeats the foreign cells by latching on to their surface and disables it. The physical shape and size of antibodies are quite crucial if the proportions are off, the antibodies will not be effective.

However, they are different from vaccines, antibody drugs are a cure, they cannot offer immunity to a population that has not been infected.

Vaccines on the other hand are preventive in nature. Antibody drugs bind themselves to infected cells upon injection. 

While vaccines involve infecting the population with weak or inactivated virus samples, antibody drugs stimulate the immune system to attack the infected cells.

In the case of vaccines, the body creates antibodies by itself to fight the inactivated virus samples. They essentially work as a dress rehearsal, so that the body is ready for a full-blown infection.

Vaccines also take a longer time to develop, by conservative estimates it takes at least one year for a fool-proof vaccine to be deploid. However, antibody drugs can be developed in a matter of months as proven by institutes in Israel and the Netherlands.

And finally, vaccines generally have universal deployability. Most people can get vaccinated unless they are allergic to the formula but antibody treatments are advised only for infected patients and high-risk population groups.