The therapy can provide protection until everyone has received the vaccine.
As vaccinations continue throughout the country, scientists in the United Kingdom are now looking at a new medicine that could prevent somebody exposed to COVID-19 from fully developing symptoms, which could significantly cut their chances of survival.
According to Dr. Catherine Houlihan of the University College London Hospitals (UCLH), her team is looking at a potential antibody therapy that could stop the virus in its tracks and not explode to a full COVID-19 infection once it enters the body.
“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,” she said in an interview with the Guardian.
As opposed to a vaccine, which gives long-term immunity to anybody who is inoculated against the COVID-19, the antibody therapy is designed to be an emergency treatment. Its goal would be to prevent an explosion of an outbreak in an environment where one or more people have become carriers of the coronavirus.
It would provide protection to people who are living in home care, patients in hospitals and students living together in boarding houses.
If authorities find that there are carriers of the COVID-19 in the abode, the antibody therapy, once approved, will be administered to the population to prevent outbreaks by making everyone instantly immune to the virus.
The therapy is a project by the UCLH and AstraZeneca, who also has a pending emergency use application with the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency. The Agency is expected to decide on the application by next week.
The team says that antibody therapy can be effective at providing protection from COVID-19 for six to 12 months. The trial involves two doses per person, after which its efficacy is monitored and the data submitted to the authorities.
Once the team observes a measure of effectiveness, it will then administer as a final test the antibody therapy to anyone who has reported exposure to the virus within the past eight days.
“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 student halls,” Dr. Houlihan specified.
Dr. Houlihan went on to explain that trial participants can opt to take the vaccine developed by Pfizer and is currently being administered to priority groups in England. However, as the Pfizer vaccine takes a month to provide immunity, it would be too late if the person has already been exposed to the virus immediately before vaccination.
“The advantage of this medicine is that it gives you immediate antibodies,” she added.
Antibodies are genetic markers used by the immune system to tag harmful cells like viruses and bacteria that find their way into the bloodstream. Once tagged, the killer cells in the immune system can then set to work destroying the foreign object.
The therapy received the praise of Paul Hunter, an infectious disease specialist at the University of East Anglia, who said that the therapy has the potential to reduce the death toll from COVID-19.
“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,” he said.