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A new drug in the works might provide coronavirus immunity

Published Dec 29th, 2020 10:39PM EST
Coronavirus treatment
Image: Mauro Rodrigues/Adobe

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  • Development of a potential new coronavirus treatment is underway in Britain, where researchers are trying to put together a dose of antibodies that would provide instant coronavirus immunity.
  • The idea is to develop a coronavirus treatment that works in tandem with COVID vaccines to curb the spread of the pandemic.
  • People would be given this new antibody regimen as a coronavirus treatment when they’ve been exposed to the coronavirus, in the hopes that this drug prevents them from fully contracting an infection.

If you’ve been following any of the news out of Britain in recent days, you’re probably aware that a stringent series of lockdown protocols has been implemented there, following a scary surge in coronavirus cases that also reflects the presence of the more transmissible COVID variant which has been worrying experts around the world. Within a matter of days, though, the UK will approve the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, ahead of an overall vaccine rollout that’s already seen at least 600,000 people in the UK given jabs so far.

Moreover, there’s also reason to be hopeful that tools are coming online to fight the pandemic beyond COVID vaccines. Along those lines, experts at the University College London Hospitals NHS Trust (UCLH) are working on a coronavirus treatment comprised of antibodies that they’re hoping could offer long-term protection to patients when it’s otherwise too late to give them a COVID vaccine.

The idea here is to have a new drug to give to people who’ve been exposed to the coronavirus to prevent them from going on and fully developing a coronavirus infection. Per The Guardian, the aim is to convey “instant immunity” against COVID-19 — and to have something that could be distributed to hospital patients and residents of long-term care facilities to help curb outbreaks.

“If we can prove that this treatment works and prevent people who are exposed to the virus going on to develop COVID-19, it would be an exciting addition to the arsenal of weapons being developed to fight this dreadful virus,” virologist Dr. Catherine Houlihan (who’s leading this study into the drug) told The Guardian.

Other use cases envisioned for the drug include distributing it within households whenever one member of the household has contracted the coronavirus, to prevent the pathogen’s spread to the rest of the family. The drug was developed via a partnership between UCLH and AstraZeneca, the latter being the same pharmaceutical company behind the vaccine that the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency is expected to approve for use there in days.

This new drug could reportedly be available as soon as March or April once the trial is successfully finished and regulators have reviewed the findings. A trial involving hospitals in Britain, as well as a network of sites around the world, is underway now, with the trial attempting to show whether a treatment of these antibodies provides the hoped-for COVID immunity lasting ideally between six and 12 months, at a minimum.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.