A research team based in Taiwan has found a key antibody that has the ability to neutralize SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
The team, led by Huang Kuan-ying (黃冠穎), a doctor in the Department of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital’s Linkou branch in New Taipei City, is comprised of researchers from the hospital, Chang Gung University, Academia Sinica and the Institute of Preventive Medicine at the National Defense Medical Center, as well as Oxford University in the UK.
The team on Thursday said that it examined antibody function through immunofluorescence assays, neutralization tests and plaque reduction neutralization tests.
Photo courtesy of Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital.
Tests with strains from different clades, including strains from China, the US, Europe and Egypt, showed an equivalent neutralization effect of 90 to 98 percent, it said.
The test results demonstrated the potential of SARS-CoV-2-neutralizing human monoclonal antibodies for the development of prophylactic and therapeutic products, it added.
Chang Gung University Research Center for Emerging Viral Infections director Shih Shin-ru (施信如) said that for the coronavirus to infect the body, it has to integrate with a protein attached to the surface of human cells called angiotensin-converting enzyme 2.
The antibody discovered by the team can prevent this process by integrating with the enzyme first, thus blocking the coronavirus’ path to infection, she said.
The team plans to use the antibody to develop medication, Shih said, adding that it would next month meet with manufacturers, which would conduct further trials before beginning mass production.
If all goes well, the medicine could be on the market by the end of this year, she said.
Although the antibody has shown promising results in human cell testing, Shih said that as no clinical trials have been conducted, it is still uncertain how it would perform in COVID-19 patients.
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