Chinese scientists say they have found “extremely effective” antibodies in their search for drugs to treat and prevent the novel coronavirus.
Zhang Linqi at Beijing’s Tsinghua University told Reuters that his team has found antibodies that effectively block the virus from entering human cells. Those antibodies could be used in drugs to more efficiently treat COVID-19, which currently has no proven treatment.
Zhang said his team began collecting blood samples from recovered patients in early January and isolated 206 monoclonal antibodies with a “strong” ability to connect with the virus’s proteins. He added that four were found in another test to prevent the virus from entering human cells, and two were “exceedingly good” at it.
The team’s goal is to find the most powerful antibodies and merge them to reduce the chances of the coronavirus mutating, according to Reuters, which noted that the ideal result would produce a drug for at-risk people to prevent them from getting COVID-19.
The scientists reportedly hope the drug could be mass produced for testing, beginning on animals and then on humans, in six months. Normally, it takes two years for a drug to be approved, but with the coronavirus taking over the world spotlight, the process could be sped up, Reuters noted.
China-U.S. biotech firm Brii Biosciences said in a statement obtained by the news service that it has partnered with the group of scientists.
But some experts warn that it could take time for such a drug to become widely available, with Hong Kong University infectious disease specialist Ben Cowling telling Reuters “a number of steps … will now need to be followed” before it can be used on COVID-19 patients.
The coronavirus has infected more than 883,200 people worldwide, killing 44,156. A total of 185,377 have recovered, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.