• Researchers recently isolated a molecule that could help create a drug capable of neutralizing the coronavirus.
  • Clinical trials involving the drug are set to begin on humans next year.
  • Even if a coronavirus vaccine is approved later this year, it may only work 50% of the time.

Researchers at the Pittsburgh School of Medicine recently made a scientific breakthrough that could prove to be instrumental in putting the coronavirus pandemic behind us. Specifically, researchers managed to isolate the smallest molecule capable of completely neutralizing the coronavirus. The scientists will now use that molecule to help create a drug for humans (called Ab8, for the time being) that could completely destroy the virus that causes COVID-19 and prevent it from replicating in humans.

One of the benefits of Ab8 is that it’s especially small. Researchers say this is helpful because it can spread more easily within tissues as a result. Its small size also means that it can be administered in a variety of ways, including via inhalation. What’s more, research has shown that it’s less likely to cause side effects in humans than other coronavirus therapies that are currently being tested because it doesn’t bind to individual cells.

Speaking to Pittwire, John W. Mellors — one of the co-authors of the study –said the following:

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. 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.

The full research paper was published in Cell and can be viewed over here.

To date, Ab8 has only been tested on mice so it remains to be seen if it proves to be as effective on humans. To this end, clinical trials are set to begin early next year, but the scientists seem confident based on early results that they’re on to something big.

Meanwhile, with the number of daily new coronavirus cases still hovering in the 40,000 range here in the United States alone, it has become clear that we may not be able to move past the pandemic until several safe and effective vaccines and other drugs are developed. One potential problem with a coronavirus vaccine, however, is that the first incarnation may only be effective 50% of the time. On top of that, the first vaccines that are authorized for emergency use could very well require individuals to take at least two doses.

In light of that, CDC director Robert Redfield recently said that mask-wearing is likely more effective at preventing the coronavirus than a vaccine would be. “We have clear scientific evidence they work,” Redfield said of masks earlier this week. “This face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID19 than when I take a COVID vaccine.”

He continued, “These face masks are the most powerful public health tool we have. I appeal to all Americans to embrace these face coverings.”

A life long Mac user and Apple enthusiast, Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 6 years. His writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and most recently, TUAW. When not writing about and analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions, the most recent examples being The Walking Dead and Broad City.