COVID-19 antibody drugs likely available before vaccines

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Friday, July 17, 2020
Action News coverage of the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak

We've heard about potential vaccines for the coronavirus.

But other drugs are also being developed.

And these promising drugs are moving quickly in research - some going into their final testing stages.

These drugs could be an important bridge, to treat, or even prevent, COVID-19 infections until vaccines are available.

They're called monoclonal antibodies.

Basically they are synthetically-modified versions of the antibodies found in the blood plasma of COVID-19 survivors.

Researchers combine 2 potent antibodies into one compound aimed at preventing the coronavirus from attaching to cells.

Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the CDC is very optimistic about this new approach, based on what was seen with a similar drug developed to treat Ebola patients in Africa.

"And all of a sudden, we were seeing not 70% death, but we were seeing 80% survival," said Dr. Redfield during a Q&A session with the editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

At least 2 companies (Regeneron and Eli Lilly) have antibody cocktails in late-stage tests, to both treat people hospitalized with COVID-19 and to keep high-risk Americans, such as nursing home residents and health care workers, from developing the infection after being exposed.

The protection probably wouldn't last as long as with a vaccine.

The drugs would likely have to be given by infusion, so they would not be practical for wide-scale use.

However, they could win FDA approval early this fall, likely several months ahead of the first vaccines.