- Chinese lab developing a drug for COVID-19 claims it can “stop pandemic even without vaccine”
- Coronavirus first emerged in December last year in China
- Many countries, including the US and the UK, are working on COVID-19 vaccines
A laboratory in China is working on the development of a drug that it believes has the ability to bring the novel Coronavirus to a halt. The COVID-19 which first emerged in China last year, in December, spread across the World which pushed many countries in developing vaccines for the deadly virus.
A drug has been tested in China by scientists from the world-renowned Peking University which can not just shorten the recovery time of those who were infected but also even provide short-term immunity to people from the novel Coronavirus, claims the researchers.
Director of the University’s Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Genomics, Xiaoliang Sunney Xie, told AFP that this drug has shown positive results at the animal testing stage.
Cie said, “When we injected neutralising antibodies into infected mice, after five days the viral load was reduced by a factor of 2,500,”.
“That means this potential drug has (a) therapeutic effect.”
The drug, which the Chinese lab is developing, uses the neutralising antibodies – produced by a human body’s immune system in order to prevent the virus from infecting the cells – which Xie’s team managed to isolate from the blood of 60 patients which recovered from this deadly virus.
A study on the research of the team which was published in the scientific journal called Cell suggested that using these antibodies could potentially “cure” the patients and even shorten recovery time.
Xie said that his team had worked “day and night” in the search of the antibody.
“Our expertise is single-cell genomics rather than immunology or virology. When we realised that the single-cell genomic approach can effectively find the neutralising antibody we were thrilled.”
Xie adds that the drug they are developing is expected to be ready for use in 2020 itself and probably in time for any potential winter outbreak of COVID-19.
As of today, almost 4.9 million (or 49 lakh) people have been infected by this virus globally, and out of those 320, 189 people have lost their lives.
Xie said, “Planning for the clinical trial is underway,” and added that it will be carried out in other countries such as Australia since the cases dropped in China, offering less human guinea pigs for testing of the drug.
He said, “The hope is these neutralised antibodies can become a specialised drug that would stop the pandemic,”.
As per the statement made by a health official in China, the country has 5 potential Coronavirus vaccines which are at the human trial stage.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that developing a vaccine can take anywhere from 12 months to 18 months, however, the whole world is in a race against time and is doing everything it could to do it quicker.
The scientists have pointed out the potential benefits of the plasma therapy where a blood fluid from the body of the people who have recovered from this deadly virus and developed the antibodies to the virus.
More than 700 patients have received plasma therapy in China, a process which authorities said showed “very good therapeutic effects”.
Xie said, “However, it (plasma) is limited in supply,” but remarked that 14 neutralising antibodies which were used in their drug could be put into high volume production soon.
Use of antibodies in drug treatment has been used in the past as well and has been found successful in treating a lot many viruses including the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), HIV, and Ebola.
Xie claims that his team had “an early start” since the outbreak started in China before spreading out to the rest of the world.
Ebola drug, Remdesivir, was considered to be an early treatment for COVID-19 and even clinical trials were done in the US which showed it shortened the recovery time in some patients by one third however the difference in the mortality rate was not substantial.
The new drug could even offer short-term protection against the virus.
The study showed that if mice were injected with the neutralising antibodies before it was infected with the virus, the mice did not contract the infection and no virus was found. This could potentially offer temporary protection for the healthcare staff along with other people such as law enforcement officers for a few weeks, which Xie said they are hoping to “extend to a few months”.
Currently, over 100 vaccines for the novel Coronavirus are being tested, but the process of development of vaccines is time-consuming and expensive. Xie hopes that the new drug could be a quicker and efficient way to stop the deadly virus.
He said, “We would be able to stop the pandemic with an effective drug, even without a vaccine,”.