New Delhi: Chinese scientists said they are developing a new drug, claiming that the medication can help stop the coronavirus pandemic, perhaps, without a vaccine. The drug being developed at China’s prestigious Peking University has been tested successfully on animals.
Researchers said the drug could shorten the recovery time for patients infected with COVID-19. Test results also showed that the drug has the potential to offer short-term immunity from the virus.
“The drug has been successful at the animal testing stage. When we injected neutralising antibodies into infected mice, after five days the viral load was reduced by a factor of 2,500,” Sunney Xie, director of the university’s Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Genomics, told AFP. Xie said the results indicate that this potential drug has (a) therapeutic effect.
The drug works by generating neutralising antibodies – produced by the human immune system to prevent the virus infecting cells – which researchers isolated from the blood of 60 patients who had recovered from COVID-19.
“The hope is these neutralised antibodies can become a specialised drug that would stop the pandemic,” Xie added.
The findings, published Sunday in the scientific journal Cell, suggested that using the antibodies provides a potential ‘cure’ for the disease and shortens recovery time.
“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,” said Xie, adding planning for the clinical trial of the drug is underway and it will be carried out in Australia and other countries since cases have dwindled in China, offering fewer human guinea pigs for testing.
Xie said the drug should be ready for use later this year and in time for any potential winter outbreak of the virus. Last week, a Chinese health official revealed that the country is currently working on five potential coronavirus vaccines, which are at the human trial stage. Meanwhile, Massachusetts biotechnology company Moderna said its coronavirus vaccine mRNA-1273 has shown positive results in the early human trial.
So far, at least 316,333 people across the world have lost their lives to COVID-19. As many as 4,759,650 cases of coronavirus have been reported in 196 countries and territories.