New Drug May Stop Pandemic 'Without Vaccine'

Tuesday, May 19, 2020 - 14:03

Researchers of a Chinese laboratory have been developing a drug which may have 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, the Jakarta Post reports.

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 neutralizing antibodies into infected mice, after five days the viral load was reduced by a factor of 2,500," said Xie.

The drug uses neutralizing 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 realized that the single-cell genomic approach can effectively find the neutralizing 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, 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 neutralized antibodies can become a specialized drug that would stop the pandemic," he said.

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