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Crucial coronavirus antibody drug could be ready sooner than expected

Published Apr 16th, 2020 7:07PM EDT
Coronavirus News
Image: Salvatore Laporta/IPA/Shutterstock

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  • South Korea plans to conduct clinical trials for a COVID-19 drug based on antibodies later this year, aiming to have the medicine ready next year.
  • The country estimates that a vaccine won’t be ready until late 2021 at the earliest, or more likely sometime in 2022.
  • Other countries have used plasma from survivors of the novel coronavirus disease to treat severe COVID-19 cases.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

Doctors have been treating COVID-19 with a wide range of therapies, attempting to prevent complications and attend to symptoms. However, there are no specific drugs for the novel coronavirus and that explains why you keep hearing about cures that may work on some patients and fail on others. Medical professionals are running several studies to see which drugs have a chance of improving COVID-19 prognosis, but nothing can move too quickly in this regard. Vaccines will ultimately be the only way to prevent infection and hopefully eradicate the disease, but we’ll have to wait another 18 months to get them. Before that happens, South Korea might have a COVID-19 drug based on the only type of cure that works right now: Antibody treatment.

The immune system creates antibodies that deal with every pathogen that enters the body. That explains why some COVID-19 patients don’t even experience symptoms: their immune response is so good that the virus is annihilated. Those patients may donate blood plasma that contains the antibodies to other patients and have them heal faster. This is the only treatment known to work well at this point for COVID-19, and it’s something that can be used for any infectious disease.

However, the entire process is slow. You have to find donors that match your patients and you have to test for antibodies. In New York, a pilot program is also testing for the number of antibodies in plasma. Similar projects have been used in other countries as well. In one unusual COVID-19 case from China, a person who was infectious for 49 days received antibodies and recovered.

Korea wants to develop an antibody-based drug that could be ready by next year. The country will go forward with testing an antibody-based treatment for COVID-19 within the year, reports The Korea Times. Synthesizing such a drug for COVID-19 treatment could be a critical development, and would help us buy even more time until vaccines become available worldwide.

The report also reveals that Korea collected a large number of blood samples from people infected with the virus and will use them in antibody drug tests later this year. The country also plans to use blood plasma from recovered patients to treat others in the next two to three months. Korea expects a vaccine in late 2021 or in 2022.

South Korea has been one of the countries that managed to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus by performing extensive testing and contact tracing among those infected. The country saw an abrupt spike in cases in mid-February, almost simultaneously with Italy. But South Korea has a COVID-19 caseload of 10,613 cases as of Thursday morning compared to Italy’s 165,000+ cases.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.