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Researchers in Texas report in the journal Nature that a COVID-19 antibody treatment they engineered has proved very effective at neutralizing more than 20 variants of the new coronavirus, at least in a study involving mice.
A lead author of the study, antibody engineer Zhiqiang An at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, said antibody treatments for COVID-19 have not been very popular among doctors, partly because they are delivered intravenously and require high doses to be effective. The new treatment, created by attaching an immunoglobulin M (IgM) neutralizing antibody to the IgG antibodies used in most current antibody drugs, is delivered through a nasal spray.
“Nasal delivery would allow for lower doses and direct access to the respiratory tract and lung,” Reuters reports, citing the researchers. “It also could be self-administrated without medical supervision,” and perhaps purchased at a pharmacy.
The researchers report that when they sprayed the designer IgM antibody into the noses of mice six hours before or after the mice were infected with the coronavirus, it sharply cut the amount of virus in the mice’s lungs two days later. This is a “big feat of engineering,” said Guy Gorochov, an immunologist at Sorbonne University in Paris, but the study leaves a lot of open questions about how effective the treatment will be in humans. California biotech IGM Biosciences collaborated in An’s study and will conduct human trials of the treatment.