Posted: Monday, September 14, 2020. 7:23 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: The UK Recovery Trial, which pioneered the use of dexamethasone as a treatment for COVID-19, is trialling a new antibody treatment on 2,000 British patients.
The BBC reports that patients will be given monoclonal (potent, laboratory-made) antibodies, testing their effectiveness. Co-leader of the Trial Martin Landray, a professor from Oxford University, says we need to find out how, if it is possible, the antibodies stop the virus from reproducing, causing damage and improving survival.
Antibodies are the warriors of the immune system, the BBC reports, attacking the virus and blocking it from entering cells. The most important and potent of these are neutralising antibodies. Monoclonal antibodies are sieved to find the most effective, then multiplied and mass-produced before being distributed to boost the immune system.
The trial will test a mixture of two monoclonal antibodies made by the US biotech company Regeneron. Both attach to the spike of the virus at slightly different places. So, if the virus mutates, and the structure changes, at least one should still work. Regeneron has already produced monoclonal antibodies that can treat Ebola.
Among the key questions to be answered, says Landray, are: “Do they work in people who are older or younger? Do they work in people with more severe or milder disease? Do they work in people only when they’re on ventilators or, possibly more likely, before they ever need ventilators?”
The results will also be compared with people receiving convalescent plasma, another treatment currently undergoing trials by the Recovery Team. This is where plasma, the yellowish, liquid part of blood, is taken from people who’ve recovered from coronavirus and given to patients.
The Recovery Trial is also looking at azithromycin, a commonly used antibiotic, and tocilizumab, an anti-inflammatory treatment.
Monoclonal antibodies have been used clinically since the 1980s, and are used to treat many diseases including some forms of cancer.
But they are not expected to supplant either existing treatments or a vaccine when one is made.
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