Researchers at Peking University, Beijing, China, have developed a drug which they believe has the potential to stop the Coronavirus pandemic without vaccines.
According to the study published by the researchers, the drug will not only bring down the recovery time of Coronavirus patients but it will also provide them immunity from the virus for a short period.
Sunney Xie, director at the Peking University’s Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Genomics, revealed that the drug has produced successful results during animal testing.
When we injected neutralizing antibodies into infected mice, after five days the viral load was reduced by a factor of 2,500. This suggests that the drug has a therapeutic effect.
Neutralizing antibodies are produced by the human immune system to prevent any virus from damaging the cells. Peking researchers used 14 neutralizing antibodies extracted from the blood of 60 recovered Coronavirus patients.
Moreover, researchers have found that the mice remained infection-free when they were administered the coronavirus after getting injected with the neutralizing antibodies, suggesting the drug offers short-term protection against the virus.
Xie’s team has been working relentlessly following the outbreak of Coronavirus in Wuhan in late December last year.
Our expertise is single-cell genomics rather than immunology or virology. When we realized that the single-cell genomic approach can effectively find the neutralizing antibodies we were thrilled. The team has worked day and night in the search of the antibodies.
Peking University researchers are now planning to move ahead with the clinical trials for the drug. The team is looking to conduct clinical trials outside China because cases in China have decreased, offering fewer people for testing.
Sunney Xie is hopeful that the drug will be ready for use before the end of 2020 and it will be widely available before a potential winter outbreak of the virus.
Xie concluded that Peking University drug can potentially stop the pandemic without a vaccine.
World Health Organization (WHO), on the other hand, has warned that a vaccine for COVID-19 will take at least 12 to 18 months to develop. More than 100 vaccines are under development across the world. According to Chinese healthcare authorities, 5 potential vaccines are being tested in clinical trials across China.
This isn’t the first time that a drug based on neutralizing antibodies has been successful in treating a viral infection. Drugs with neutralizing antibodies have been successful in treating MERS, Ebola, and HIV. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently authorized doctors to use the Ebola drug, Remdesivir, to treat critically ill Coronavirus patients.