Scientists in the United Kingdom have begun trials of an antibody drug combination that could prevent people who have been exposed to COVID-19 from developing complications.
The antibody therapy is expected to confer instant immunity against COVID-19 and could be given as an emergency treatment to patients, care home residents, and university students to help contain the spread of the virus.
People who live with someone who has contracted the disease or been exposed to them could also be injected with the drug to stop them from becoming infected.
According to The Guardian, the antibody, known as AZD7442, was developed by scientists from the University College London Hospitals NHS (UCLH) and AstraZeneca, a UK-Swedish drug firm, that created a vaccine with Oxford University — the vaccine is currently awaiting the approval of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Ten people — students and medical staff — have been injected with the drug as part of the new trial called Storm Chaser.
The participants were said to have received two consecutive doses of the drug after the study entered its phase three trial on December 2.
The scientists hope the treatment would provide protection against COVID-19 for six months to a year.
Catherine Houlihan, who is leading the Storm Chaser trial, said the treatment would be an “exciting addition” to efforts being tested and developed to fight the disease.
“We know that this antibody combination can neutralise the virus, so we hope to find that giving this treatment via injection can lead to immediate protection against the development of COVID-19 in people who have been exposed — when it would be too late to offer a vaccine.
“To date, we have injected 10 participants — staff, students and other people — who were exposed to the virus at home, in a healthcare setting, or in student halls.
“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.”
On his part, Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia who specialises in infectious diseases, said the new treatment in the Storm Chaser trial could reduce the number of COVID-19 fatalities.
“If you are dealing with outbreaks in settings such as care homes, or if you have got patients who are particularly at risk of getting severe COVID, such as the elderly, then this could well save a lot of lives. Providing it’s borne out in phase 3 trials, it could play a big role in keeping alive people who would otherwise die,” he said.
“If you had an outbreak in a care home, you might want to use these sorts of cocktails of antibodies to bring the outbreak under control as soon as possible by giving the drug to everybody in the care home — residents and staff — who haven’t been vaccinated.
“Similarly, if you live with your elderly grandmother and you or someone else in the house gets infected, then you could give her this to protect her.”
Also, the scientists are working on a separate trial called Provent to examine whether the use of AZD7442 could also protect people with compromised immune systems, as well as those who have recently been exposed to the virus but have either not had a vaccine.
Provent is also in phase 3 trial.
According to Nicky Longley, an infectious diseases consultant at UCLH who is leading the Provent trial, older people and those in long-term care, as well as people with conditions such as cancer and HIV, which may affect the ability of their immune system to respond to a vaccine, will be recruited to take part in the trial.