BALTIMORE — As scientists around the world race to find a vaccine for the coronavirus pandemic, a team in the United States may be one step closer to a treatment. Researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) identified a pair of powerful antibodies that may create a new cocktail to use against COVID-19.
The antibody mix is set to be used to treat COVID-19 patients in a clinical trial, which began in early June.
To find out which antibodies are most effective against the coronavirus, the biotechnology company Regeneron tested thousands of human antibodies donated by recovering COVID-19 patients. They also created new antibodies from mice that were genetically engineered to produce human antibodies after being infected with coronavirus.
Sticking to SARS-CoV-2
Researchers are looking for antibodies which most effectively bind to the protein of SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19. Dr. Matthew Frieman of UMSOM says four antibodies were eventually chosen as the most potent to use against the virus.
The study, published in the journal Science, says two of those antibodies were then found to work well in a powerful mixture — creating the potential breakthrough cocktail.
“The ability of the research team to rapidly derive antibodies using these two methods enabled us screen their selected antibodies against live virus to determine which had the strongest anti-viral effects,” explains Dr. Frieman in a university statement.
Testing antibody treatment on COVID-19 patients
The study notes that Dr. Frieman has been studying various coronaviruses for the last 16 years. He’s been focused on SARS-CoV-2 since February from inside a “secure laboratory.”
Frieman and Regeneron’s research on antibody therapy is latest in a long history of using blood to create virus treatments. The study explains that antibody therapies were first attempted in the late 19th century. Scientists used serums made from the blood of infected animals to treat diphtheria, a serious bacterial infection.
The new research may hopefully find the right mixture to tackle a virus which has infected around eight million people worldwide.
“An important goal of this research was to evaluate the most potent antibodies that bind to different molecules in the spike protein so they could be mixed together as a treatment,” study co-author Stuart Weston said.
The antibody cocktail will be tested on COVID-19 patients who are both hospitalized or sick at home. Researchers say it will also be tested on healthy individuals who are at high risk for getting infected, like healthcare workers.
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