A laboratory in Peking University, China, has discovered a drug which could offer therapeutic care and confer short-term immunity for those infected with coronavirus. The research team which specializes in Single-cell Genomics, isolated neutralising antibodies — produced by immune system — from 60 recovered patients.

In a statement to AFP, Sunney Xie, director of the University’s Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Genomics, reported that the drug has promising palliative effect after it had successfully reduced the viral load in mice during the animal testing stage.

In Xie’s words:

When we injected neutralising antibodies into infected mice, after five days the viral load was reduced by a factor of 2,500, that means this potential drug has (a) therapeutic effect…Our expertise is single-cell genomics rather than immunology or virology.

When we realised that the single-cell genomic approach can effectively find the neutralising antibody we were thrilled.

Xie added that the hope is that these neutralising antibodies can become a specialised drug that would stop the pandemic.

He further added that since the cases in China have significantly reduced, clinical trials will be done in Australia and other countries, with hopes that the drug will be ready for use later this year and in time for any potential winter outbreak of the virus.

Recently, a health official reported that at the moment, China has five potential coronavirus vaccines at the human trial stage but the World Health Organization warns that it could take 12 to 18 months to develop a vaccine.

Xie is however hopeful that this drug will be timely, and will effectively stop the pandemic before a vaccine is available. He also stated that the drug could confer immunity to front line health workers as was observed in animal testing.

In Xie’s words:

The study showed that if the neutralising antibody was injected before the mice were infected with the virus, the mice stayed free of infection and no virus was detected.

This may offer temporary protection for medical workers for a few weeks, which we hope to extend to a few months

We would be able to stop the pandemic with an effective drug, even without a vaccine.