Story at a glance
- An antibody COVID-19 treatment is being tested in London.
- The treatment aims to cultivate immunity for six to 12 months.
As the United Kingdom continues to struggle with new cases of COVID-19 amid a more contagious strain of the virus, scientists in London are testing an antibody treatment aimed at protecting against COVID-19.
Researchers at the University College of London Hospital (UCLH) announced they administered the first dosage of their antibody treatment candidate to a patient on Christmas Day. The larger trial, led by UCLH researchers, recruited a total of 10 volunteer patients and administered a dose to one.
Drug manufacturer AstraZeneca — whose potential COVID-19 vaccine is anticipated to be the next vaccine approved for emergency use — also developed a long-active antibody (LAAB), known as AZD7442, which may help the human body’s immune system stimulate protection against COVID-19 for people who have been exposed to the virus.
The study is led by UCLH virologist Catherine Houlihan, the director of UCL’s Infection and Immunity department.
Antibodies, proteins created by an immune response, hunt for foreign intruders, like viruses, in the body to eliminate them. The prevailing theory for antibody-based treatments is that if the body can preemptively have antibodies that recognize the virus, it can react better if infected.
The LAAB is composed of monoclonal antibodies, which are artificially made and administered in an effort to strengthen the immune system.
“We know that this antibody combination can neutralise the virus, so we hope to find that giving this treatment via injection can lead to immediate protection against the development of Covid-19 in people who have been exposed – when it would be too late to offer a vaccine,” Houlihan said.
The U.S. government has helped fund AstraZeneca’s LAAB, with the hope that if clinical data can prove efficacy, the treatment could act complementary to vaccines.
It may also help those who are particularly susceptible to severe COVID-19 infections and could potentially act as an alternative to a vaccine if needed.
“We will be recruiting people who are older or in long-term care, and who have conditions such as cancer and HIV which may affect the ability of their immune system to respond to a vaccine,” Nicky Longley, an infectious disease expert at UCLH said. “We want to reassure anyone for whom a vaccine may not work that we can offer an alternative which is just as protective.”
The LAAB is designed to be administered once, as opposed to vaccines created by Pfizer and Moderna, which are taken in two doses.
It is designed to last between six to 12 months from the dose.