Medical personnel are turning to monoclonal antibodies in their bid to protect people who might not be able to get vaccinated.
The COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout
As the COVID-19 vaccine has rolled out and an increasing number of people are being inoculated, there is a huge chunk of population that is at the risk of being left out. This includes people who have a compromised immune system, with vulnerabilities such as genetic immune deficiencies, illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis, and organ-transplant or cancer patients who need immune-suppressing medicines.
The vaccine may not work as well for these people as they are not as capable of making antibodies to neutralize the virus. Companies are trying, therefore, to create alternative treatments that can bypass the immune system. Monoclonal antibody treatments are one such group.
Monoclonal antibodies have transformed the way we treat or even prevent disease. These antibodies are based on natural antibodies. However, they are created in a lab. These artificially generated antibodies bind to key sites on a virus’s spike protein. This prevents the virus from entering the cell. Studies are being carried out to determine if these monoclonal antibodies can prevent the coronavirus from infecting immune-compromised people.
The immune-suppressed population suffered a lot during the first wave of COVID-19. Additionally, preventing the infection in this section of the population will also go a long way in curbing the disease. If we aim to get back to normal life, it is essential that everybody is protected and transmission is curbed.
However, even though the potential of this form of treatment is leading to excitement, we need to wait and see how cost-effective this treatment is in the long run, if it can be used on a large scale, and for how long its protection will last.
Earlier, intravenous immunoglobulin, or IVIG, was the primary way to protect immune-compromised people during outbreaks. IVIG infusions are taken through blood plasma of healthy people and are an effective way to protect against infections. However, IVIG is expensive and protects only for a few weeks at a time.
Monoclonal antibodies, on the other hand, are also a tedious process. Earlier, due to the time taken to culture these antibodies, they were considered impractical against viruses. However, due to several technological advances, the isolation of antibodies takes less than a month. Earlier, creating monoclonal antibodies took around 18 months, but now takes just 10. Another noteworthy improvement is, that scientists have made changes to the structure of these antibodies, which makes them stay in the blood stream for months rather than weeks. This is why these antibodies are now being researched to search for the right kind to work against COVID-19.
If this line of treatment is successful, it could also be used to protect people with compromised immune systems as well as those who do not produce sufficient antibodies. The current coronavirus pandemic, in the future, will likely be an endemic disease, if predictions are to be believed. In that case, monoclonal