This picture taken on May 14, 2020 shows a researcher at Peking University's Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Genomics conducting tests at their laboratory in Beijing. The Chinese laboratory says it has developed a drug it believes has the power to bring the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic to a halt, shortening the recovery time for those infected and even offering short-term immunity from the virus.
AFP/Wang Zhao
Scientists in China believe new drug can stop pandemic 'without vaccine'
Qian Ye (Agence France-Presse) - May 20, 2020 - 7:48am

BEIJING, China — A Chinese laboratory has been developing a drug it believes has the power to bring the coronavirus pandemic to a halt.

The outbreak first emerged in China late last year before spreading across the world, prompting an international race to find treatments and vaccines.

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.

Xie said his team had been working "day and night" searching for the antibody.

"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 said he hopes that the drug will be ready for use later this year and in time for any potential winter outbreak of the virus, which has infected 4.8 million people around the world and killed more than 315,000.

"Planning for the clinical trial is underway," said Xie, adding it will be carried out in Australia and other countries since cases have dwindled in China, offering fewer human guinea pigs for testing.

"The hope is these neutralising antibodies can become a specialised drug that would stop the pandemic," he said.

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.

Prevention and cure

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). 

Xie said his researchers had "an early start" since the outbreak started in China before spreading to other countries.

Ebola drug Remdesivir was considered a hopeful early treatment for COVID-19 — clinical trials in the US showed it shortened the recovery time in some patients by a third — but the difference in mortality rate was not significant.

The new drug could even offer short-term protection against the virus.

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".

More than 100 vaccines for COVID-19 are in the works globally, but as the process of vaccine development is more demanding, Xie is hoping that the new drug could be a faster and more efficient way to stop the global march of the coronavirus.

"We would be able to stop the pandemic with an effective drug, even without a vaccine," he said.

CHINA NOVEL CORONAVIRUS VACCINE
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: June 5, 2020 - 4:56pm

Follow this page for updates on a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has struck dozens of people in China.

June 5, 2020 - 4:56pm

The Department of Health reports that the total number of confirmed COVID-19 infections in the Philippines climbed to 20,626 as of Friday, June 5, 2020.

There are 244 additional cases, 82 recoveries and three new deaths.

June 5, 2020 - 9:16am

Brazil's death toll from the novel coronavirus has surged to become the third-highest in the world, surpassing Italy's, according to official figures released Thursday.

The South American country of 210 million people reported a new record of 1,473 deaths in 24 hours, bringing its overall toll to 34,021, from 614,941 infections, the health ministry said.

Italy has confirmed 33,689 deaths from 234,013 infections. — AFP 

June 5, 2020 - 7:26am

 The novel coronavirus has killed at least 387,280 people since the outbreak first emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 1900 GMT on Thursday. 

At least 6,563,710 cases of coronavirus have been registered in 196 countries and territories. Of these, at least 2,838,800 are now considered recovered.

The tallies, using data collected by AFP from national authorities and information from the World Health Organization (WHO), probably reflect only a fraction of the actual number of infections. — AFP

June 4, 2020 - 6:44pm

Britain's Prince Charles spoke of his experience of coronavirus, saying he was fortunate to have only mild symptoms and that he hopes the pandemic will refocus efforts on the environment. 

"I was lucky in my case and got away with it quite lightly," the 71-year-old heir to the throne told Sky News television in an interview broadcast on Thursday.

"I can so understand what other people have gone through. I feel particularly for those who've lost their loved ones but were unable to be with them at the time.

"That's to me the most ghastly thing," he said. — AFP

June 4, 2020 - 5:05pm

The Department of Health reports 634 additional cases of the coronavirus disease, which brings the national tally to 20,382.

The agency says there are 95 recoveries and 10 deaths. 

Philstar
  • Latest
  • Trending
Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?
X
Login

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

FORGOT PASSWORD?
SIGN IN
or sign in with