Scientists in China believe the new drug can stop pandemic 'without vaccine'
BEIJING: A Chinese laboratory has been developing a drug it believes has the power to bring the coronavirus pandemic to a halt. A drug being tested by scientists at China's prestigious Peking University could not only shorten the recovery time for those infected, but even offer short-term immunity from the virus, researchers say. Sunney Xie, director of the university's Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Genomics, told AFP that 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," said Xie. "That means this potential drug has a therapeutic effect." The drug uses neutralising antibodies -- produced by the human immune system to prevent the virus infecting cells -- which Xie's team isolated from the blood of 60 recovered patients. A study on the team's research, published Sunday in the scientific journal Cell, suggests 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." He added that the drug should be ready for use later this year and in time for any potential winter outbreak of the virus. China already has five potential coronavirus vaccines at the human trial stage, a health official said last week. But the World Health Organization has warned that developing a vaccine could take 12 to 18 months. Scientists have also pointed to the potential benefits of plasma -- a blood fluid -- from recovered individuals who have developed antibodies to the virus enabling the body's defences to attack it. More than 700 patients have received plasma therapy in China, a process which authorities said showed "very good therapeutic effects". "However, it (plasma) is limited in supply," Xie said, noting that the 14 neutralising antibodies used in their drug could be put into mass production quickly. Using antibodies in drug treatments is not a new approach, and it has been successful in treating several other viruses such as HIV, Ebola and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). The study showed that if the neutralising antibody was injected before the mice were infected with the virus, the mice stayed free of infection and no virus was detected. This may offer temporary protection for medical workers for a few weeks, which Xie said they are hoping to "extend to a few months". https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/china/scientists-in-china-believe-new-drug-can-stop-pandemic-without-vaccine/articleshow/75818869.cms