Ever since the coronavirus pandemic spread beyond China's borders to almost the whole world, everyone has always reasoned about one thing: the vaccine.
Researchers around the world are working on various candidates. Vaccine development is often (and rightfully so) a slow and complicated process. What if a Covid-19 cure came first?
Now a Chinese lab claims it has developed a drug that can block the virus without the need for a vaccine. It is currently being tested at Peking University. If it proves safe and effective we may not have to wait for a vaccine to get a cure for Covid-19 and feel a little safer in the middle of the pandemic.
So far, the drug has only been tested on animals and, more specifically, on mice. However, the results of these early studies look promising.
The road to a cure for Covid-19
Speaking with Associated France PressSunney Xie, director of Peking University's Peking Center for Advanced Innovation, revealed that the treatment dramatically reduced the viral load in mice.
Viral load is a measure of the amount of virus in the body. according to Xie, the "neutralizing antibodies" the researchers injected into the mice reduced the viral load "by a factor of 2.500". It goes without saying that this is a massive reduction in the amount of virus in the body and could have a dramatic effect on health outcomes if the same is true for humans.
Where do these antibodies come from?
Xie and his team took blood samples from 60 people affected by Covid-19 and subsequently recovered. The scientists then isolated the antibodies and used them against the living virus in the infected mice. The research of the team was published in Cell magazine.
The difference with a vaccine
The purpose of a vaccine is to give a patient's body a blueprint for fighting a virus before an infection even occurs. A weakened form of the virus is injected and when the body's immune system destroys it, the antibodies produced "remember" how to fight it if it comes back. A cure for Covid-19 would anticipate this process. Antibodies to the virus would be introduced directly into a person's bloodstream.
It is a bit like recruiting a group of microscopic "mercenary" soldiers to fight the virus. A shortcut that allows you not to have to "train your soldiers" in the new techniques they must use to defeat him.
The researchers hope these antibodies can be used to develop a drug. A drug that can fight existing coronavirus infections as the world patiently waits for a safe and effective vaccine to be developed, tested and distributed.