This antibody drug may reduce death risk in severe COVID-19

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

In a new study from the US biotech firm Regeneron and Oxford University, researchers found a cocktail of synthetic antibodies can reduce deaths among severe COVID patients who are unable to mount a strong immune response.

The therapy, called REGN-COV2, had previously only been used to treat patients in the early stages of the disease. It was given to former US President Donald Trump.

The current study found the drug is effective in treating some patients with more acute cases of the virus.

According to the team, the drug uses two synthetic antibodies to bind to sites on the virus’s spike proteins, preventing it from infecting cells.

It may be a solution for people with compromised immune systems who can’t produce enough antibodies on their own—even if they have been vaccinated or had a previous infection.

In the study, the team looked at 9,800 COVID patients hospitalized between September and May, some of whom were randomly designated to receive antibody treatment in addition to their regular care.

One-third of them had not developed antibodies against coronavirus at the start of their treatment.

Among those patients, the treatment reduced the likelihood of mortality by one-fifth, as 30% of non-treated patients died after a 28-day period compared with 24% of patients who got treatment.

Other researchers say that although the effects are encouraging, the drug is extremely expensive, and the patient number in the study was small.

Global calls for access to more affordable vaccines could end up being repeated for these drugs, which are essentially only available in very rich countries.

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One researcher of the study is Prof. Martin Landray from Oxford University.

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