Scientists developed a monoclonal antibody that can defeat the new coronavirus in the laboratory. This is an early but promising step to find treatments and curb the spread of the pandemic.
The experimental antibody neutralized the virus in cell cultures. While this is early in the drug development process – before animal and human testing – the antibody may help prevent or treat Covid-19 and related diseases in the future, either alone or in a combination of drugs, according to a study published on Monday Nature Communications.
Further research is needed to determine whether the results are confirmed in a clinical setting and how exactly the antibody defeats the virus, wrote Berend-Jan Bosch from Utrecht University in the Netherlands and colleagues in the article.
The antibody, known as 47D11, targets the spike protein, which gives the new coronavirus a crown-like shape and allows it to penetrate human cells. The Utrecht experiments not only defeated the virus responsible for Covid-19, but also a cousin equipped with similar spike proteins that cause severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made proteins that resemble naturally occurring versions that the body produces to fight bacteria and viruses. They are highly effective and target one spot of a virus. In this case, the scientists used genetically modified mice to produce various antibodies against the spike proteins of coronaviruses. After a subsequent screening process, 47D11 showed neutralizing activity. The researchers then reformatted this antibody to create a completely human version.
"Monoclonal antibodies that target vulnerable sites on viral surface proteins are increasingly recognized as a promising class of drugs against infectious diseases and have shown therapeutic efficacy for a number of viruses," wrote Bosch and colleagues.
Monoclonal antibodies have already triggered a revolution in the treatment of cancer. Medicines such as Keytruda from Merck & Co. and Herceptin from Roche Holding AG became the bestsellers in the world. AbbVie Inc. Humira’s blockbuster inflammation treatment also belongs to the monoclonal antibody family.
Two such antibody therapies are promising against Ebola. Companies like Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. are also working on possible antibody treatments for the coronavirus.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)