CHINESE health authorities have revealed that they are confident of bringing out a drug with the power to cure coronavirus before the end of the year as scientists at the Peking University are just months from coming up with a cure.
Since Covid-19 broke out late last year, scientists all around the world have been battling to find both a cure and a vaccine. Several existing drugs have also been tried with limited success and scientists in Madagascar claim their herbal remedy Covid Organics is effective too but none of these medications have scaled through clinical trials.
Sunney Xie, the director of Peking University’s Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Genomics, said that the drug they are trying out has been successful at the animal testing stage. He added that the drug uses neutralising antibodies produced by the human immune system to prevent the virus infecting cells, which his team isolated from the blood of 60 recovered patients
Professor Xie said: “When we injected neutralising antibodies into infected mice, after five days the viral load was reduced by a factor of 2,500. That means this potential drug has a therapeutic effect.”
A study on the team’s research, published in the scientific journal Cell, suggests that using the antibodies provides a potential cure for the virus and shortens recovery time. Professor Xie said his team had been working day and night searching for the antibody.
He added: “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.”
Professor Xie 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. He added that trials will be carried out in Australia and other countries since the number of cases have dwindled in China, offering fewer human guinea pigs for testing.
“Planning for the clinical trial is underway. The hope is these neutralising antibodies can become a specialised drug that would stop the pandemic,” Professor Xie said.
Last week, one Chinese health official revealed that China already has five potential coronavirus vaccines at the human trial stage. However, the World Health Organisation 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.
Professor Xie said, however, that plasma is limited in supply. He noted, however, that the 14 neutralising antibodies used in their drug could be put into mass production quickly.