New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: In what could be a good news in these testing times of coronavirus pandemic, which has afflicted more than 4 million people across the globe, Researchers in a Chinese laboratory has been developing a drug, they believe could help in halting the pandemic.  

According to a report by news agency AFP, scientists at the prestigious Peking University in China are testing a drug which could not only shorten the recovery time of the infected people but also offer short-term immunity from the virus.

Sunney Xie, director of the university's Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Genomics, told AFP that the drug has been successful at the animal testing stage.

"When we injected neutralising antibodies into infected mice, after five days the viral load was reduced by a factor of 2,500," said Xie, adding "That means this potential drug has (a) therapeutic effect."

The drug uses neutralising antibodies -- produced by the human immune system to prevent the virus infecting cells -- which Xie's team isolated from the blood of 60 recovered patients. A study on the team's research, published Sunday in the scientific journal Cell, suggests that using the antibodies provides a potential "cure" for the disease and shortens recovery time.

"Our expertise is single-cell genomics rather than immunology or virology. When we realised that the single-cell genomic approach can effectively find the neutralising antibody we were thrilled," said Xie as reported by AFP.

Xie also said that the drug should get ready for use by the end of this year and could be used for any potential winter outbreak of the deadly pathogen. "Planning for the clinical trial is underway," said Xie, adding “it will be carried out in Australia and other countries since cases have dwindled in China, offering fewer human guinea pigs for testing”.

"The hope is these neutralised antibodies can become a specialised drug that would stop the pandemic," he said.

Meanwhile, according to Chinese health officials, the country has five potential coronavirus vaccines at the human trial stage. But the World Health Organization has warned that developing a vaccine could take 12 to 18 months.

Prevention and cure

Using antibodies in drug treatments is not a new approach, and it has been successful in treating several other viruses such as HIV, Ebola and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

Xie said his researchers had "an early start" since the outbreak started in China before spreading to other countries.

The new drug could even offer short-term protection against the virus. The study showed that if the neutralising antibody was injected before the mice were infected with the virus, the mice stayed free of infection and no virus was detected.

This may offer temporary protection for medical workers for a few weeks, which Xie said they are hoping to "extend to a few months".


(With Agency Inputs)

Posted By: Talib Khan