Breakthrough in potential drug to treat and prevent COVID-19

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Scientists with UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have found an antibody component, that could help treat and prevent COVID-19.

Scientists have isolated the smallest biological molecule to date, that completely neutralizes the virus that causes COVID-19. The antibody component is 10 times smaller than a full-sized antibody, and has been used to create a drug-known as Ab8.

“It’s small, it’s potent, it penetrates into tissues. It’s fully human, it’s active against resistant viruses,” said Dr. John Mellors, Chief of Infectious Diseases, UPMC and Pitt.

That small size excites researchers.

“It really can penetrate the tissues, get right between the virus and the cell where it enters and now you have not the Model-T antibody, but the lamborghini,” said Dr. Steven Shapiro, Chief Medical and Scientific Officer, UPMC.

It could also be administered by inhalation, instead of through the veins, and does not bind to human cells, which scientists say is a good sign, that there wouldn’t be any negative side effects. So far it’s been tested on mice and hamsters.

“It was a humanized mouse,” said Dr. Shapiro, “so it really is a human antibody reacting against a human receptor.”

Most antibody therapies like this are believed to last several weeks to a few months, but scientists won’t know for sure, until human clinical trials, which are expected to happen in 2021.

Doctors could not say how expensive this treatment would be, if it’s able to be mass produced.

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