Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have isolated an antibody component that “completely and specifically neutralizes the SARS-CoV-2 virus” and say it could potentially be used as a viable therapeutic and prophylactic against the coronavirus.
The antibody component, which is 10 times smaller than a full-sized antibody, has been used to create the drug Ab8. Researchers reported on Monday in the journal Cell that the drug has been highly effective in preventing and treating coronavirus in mice and hamsters. Scientists say the drug also does not bind to human cells, suggesting it won’t result in negative side-effects in humans.
The component’s tiny size makes it possible for the drug to be developed as an inhaled mist or injected drug rather than an IV.
“Ab8 not only has potential as therapy for COVID-19, but it also could be used to keep people from getting SARS-CoV-2 infections,” John Mellors, co-author of the study and chief of the Division of Infectious Disease at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Pitt, said in a statement.
“Antibodies of larger size have worked against other infectious diseases and have been well tolerated, giving us hope that it could be an effective treatment for patients with COVID-19 and for protection of those who have never had the infection and are not immune,” he said.
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The drug was researched in collaboration with researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) at Galveston, the University of British Columbia and University of Saskatchewan.
Researchers from UTMB’s Center for Biodefense and Emerging Diseases and Galveston National Laboratory tested the drug and found it blocked the virus from entering cells, while researchers at UNC found Ab8 decreased the amount of infectious virus in mice by 10-fold even at the lowest dose.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is a global challenge facing humanity, but biomedical science and human ingenuity are likely to overcome it,” Mellors said. “We hope that the antibodies we have discovered will contribute to that triumph.”
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