Treating Covid 19 disease is difficult. Over 600 different drugs are being tested around the world for use against severe coronavirus infection. But there is no comprehensive drug that works in all phases of the disease.
But now researchers at the University Hospital Lausanne (CHUV) and the ETH Lausanne (EPFL) have found something that takes this drug a big step further:
Novel antibodies have been discovered in blood samples from recovered Covid patients. They have been tested on all virus mutations, explains virologist Priscilla Turelli, who conducts research at EPFL Lausanne: “The antibody is very effective and fights all known coronavirus strains and mutations.”
The newly discovered antibody
Already in use today
Antibodies from recovered patients can be used to provide active ingredients for antibody therapy. Covid patients are already being treated with it today. However, the agents that have been used so far are not effective against all virus variants.
The hopes are accordingly high that the newly discovered antibodies could result in a highly effective drug against Covid-19.
Neutralizing antibody against SARS-CoV-2 variants
Open the box
Close the box
The discovered antibody was isolated from lymphocytes of a Covid-19 patient at the CHUV in Lausanne. It is one of the most effective antibodies that have so far been identified against SARS-CoV-2. The structural analysis shows that the antibody binds to a site that is not susceptible to mutations in the viral spike protein (“sting of the virus”). By doing this, the antibody blocks the binding of the spike protein to cells that the virus is targeting, thereby infecting the lung cells. In this way the antibody stops the virus from multiplying and leads to its elimination by the immune system.
The infectiologist Marcel Stöckle treats Covid patients at the University Hospital Basel and knows the common drugs: “We already know this principle from other drugs that we use. The discovery could, however, be a further development of it. “
Two types of medication
The drugs that are used in Switzerland today can be divided into two groups:
On the one hand, there are drugs that work directly against the virus and prevent it from spreading further in the body. This includes the antibody drug Sotrovimab.
On the other hand, there are drugs that are already given to severely ill people and have an anti-inflammatory effect. The remedy is often used for this in Switzerland Dexamethason.
The first group includes drugs based on antibodies – like the one found in Lausanne. The problem is often that these agents have to be administered during the early stages of the disease, says infectiologist Marcel Stöckle: “The medication must be administered no later than seven days after the onset of symptoms. That has to happen in the hospital. That is why it is the duty of the general practitioners to refer the person to a hospital in good time. “
No “miracle pill” yet
Andreas Cerny is an infectiologist and advisor to Swissmedic, the licensing authority for new drugs. He sees potential in the new antibody: “The antibodies could be an alternative for people who cannot be vaccinated”.
But there is still a long way to go, says Cerny. It could take years for a drug to emerge from the first attempts in the test tube.
Science is still a long way from the “miracle pill” against Covid-19. Infectiologists therefore agree: “Vaccination still offers the best protection.”