The two-antibody cocktail, created by a US biotech company, is now being trialled by the NHS in 174 hospitals (Picture: AP / Metro.co.uk)
Early trials on an experimental coronavirus drug have so far shown it completely prevents symptomatic cases of the virus and cuts down asymptomatic infections by half.
The two-antibody cocktail called REGEN-COV, created by US biotech company Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc, is now being trialled by the NHS in 174 hospitals.
The company revealed early analysis – based on 400 participants in the US – caused a 100% reduction in symptomatic infections among those who were given the drug after being exposed to a household member with Covid-19.
The drug was previously hailed a ‘cure’ by former US president Donald Trump after he was given it during his coronavirus battle last year.
Oxford University professor Peter Horby, who is involved in a British trial of the drug, revealed there had been ‘no worrying safety signals’ surrounding the treatment in September last year.
He said he expected the drug would be tested on ‘at least 2,000’ patients across the UK.
‘The class of drugs, these artificial antibodies, have been around for quite a while now, and they’ve been extensively used in inflammatory conditions and cancers, and they’re pretty safe and well understood, and so the technology is something that I think we have confidence in,’ he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
‘This particular drug has probably been given to, I would think now, four or five hundred patients, mild or severe patients in different trials, and so far there’s been no worrying safety signals.
The drug was previously called a ‘cure’ by former US president Donald Trump, who was given the treatment when he had Covid-19 (Picture: AFP via Getty Images)
‘In the laboratory, in cell cultures, it has a very strong effect against the virus, and there have been studies in artificial animals where it also shows benefits.
‘So probably of the drugs that are available, it’s one of the most promising. ‘
The experimental drug is made up of two monoclonal antibodies and works by binding to a protein on the surface of the virus.
This helps stop SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, from attaching to cells and allows the immune system to respond.
The current trial tested REGEN-COV for use as a ‘passive vaccine’ – which means virus-fighting antibodies are directly delivered into the body, unlike traditional vaccines where the immune system is activated to develop its own antibodies.
‘These data using REGEN-COV as a passive vaccine suggest that it may both reduce transmission of the virus as well as reduce viral and disease burden in those who still get infected,’ said George Yancopoulos, president and chief scientific officer of Regeneron.
So far the early trial results are only partial and have not yet been published or peer-reviewed by other scientists.
The results come a week after another US pharmaceutical company, Eli Lilly, said its similar drug prevented 80% of nursing home residents from getting Covid-19.
Both Regeneron’s and Eli Lilly’s drugs have already been given emergency approval for treating coronavirus in the US, but they have been under-utilised so far.
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