CAPE TOWN- While the global race to find a Covid-19 vaccine is ongoing, some scientists are looking to a different type of treatment which could be described as a “bridge” to finding the vaccine.
Monoclonal antibodies are currently being developed by several American pharmaceutical companies, such as Regeneron and Eli Lilly. Both companies started clinical trials last month and results are expected in the coming weeks.
Vaccines work by teaching the immune system to recognize and mount a defense against a virus. Monoclonal antibodies can provide the immune system an immediate, but short-lived, boost to fight off the virus.
In an article published by NBC News, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, Gigi Gronvall, said that monoclonals could offer a great bridge to a vaccine.
How do monoclonal antibodies work?
Monoclonal antibodies are immune system proteins synthetically created in the laboratory and are designed to mimic the natural antibodies found in the body. Antibodies have been used for treating diseases since the 1890s, including some cancers, rabies, Ebola and some forms of hepatitis.
In a press release from Eli Lilly, Professor in the Department of Medicine at NYU Langone Orthopedic Center, Dr. Mulligan said, “antibody treatments like the one being studied here hold promise to be effective medical countermeasures against this deadly infection,”.
When a person is infected with a virus, the body’s immune system creates antibodies or proteins to combat that specific germ. Monoclonal antibodies help the immune system respond better by allowing the body to locate and attack the virus more effectively.
Once the body has defeated the virus, the immune system can recognize the specific pathogen better if the body had to come in contact with it again.
It remains unclear how long the monoclonal antibodies will be able to boost the immune system for, however infectious disease experts are hopeful.
Convalescent plasma therapy
The South African National Blood Service (SANBS) have started exploring ways to use convalescent plasma therapy for the treatment of Covid-19 patients.
This experimental treatment collects blood from those who have recovered from Covid-19 and have the antibodies the body uses to fight off infections. The donated plasma is infused into Covid-19 patients to give an immediate boost to their immune system.
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