Pitt scientists make antibody discovery that could potentially treat, prevent COVID-19

The SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19.

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 PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE SEP 14, 2020 (post-gazette.com)

Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh have taken a “major step” toward a potential drug treatment for COVID-19.

Pitt School of Medicine researchers discovered the smallest biological molecule to date that “completely and specifically” neutralizes the SARS-CoV-2 virus, according to a report published Monday in the journal Cell.

The scientists reported that a tiny antibody component — 10 times smaller than a full-sized antibody — can be used to create a therapeutic and preventative drug called Ab8 and found it to be “highly effective” in preventing the SARS-CoV-2 in mice and hamsters.

The molecule’s tiny size could be advantageous for its movement through the body’s tissues to neutralize the virus and for administering the drug — for example, through inhalation, according to the university. MARILYNN MARCHIONENIAID-sponsored study: Anti-inflammatory drug, paired with remdesivir, may shorten COVID-19 recovery time

“Ab8 not only has potential as therapy for COVID-19, but it also could be used to keep people from getting SARS-CoV-2 infections,” co-author Dr. John Mellors, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at UPMC and Pitt, said in a Monday press release. “Antibodies of larger size have worked against other infectious diseases and have been well tolerated, giving us hope that it could be an effective treatment for patients with COVID-19 and for protection of those who have never had the infection and are not immune.” 

The work was done in conjunction with scientists from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, the University of British Columbia and the University of Saskatchewan.

Pitt researchers are expected to discuss their work in more detail Tuesday.

First Published September 14, 2020, 12:51pm

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