Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine say they have isolated “the smallest biological molecule to date,” which according to scientists “completely and specifically neutralizes” the coronavirus, or SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 disease.
The findings have been published in the journal Cell and according to the study, the molecule that has been discovered is 10 times smaller than a full-sized antibody.
The antibody component is 10 times smaller than a full-sized antibody and has been used to create the drug Ab8, shared in the report published by the researchers in the journal Cell on Monday. The drug is seen as a potential preventative against SARS-CoV-2.
According to the report, the drug has been “highly effective in preventing and treating” the SARS-CoV-2 infections in mice and hamsters during tests. The drug also reportedly does not bind to human cells, which suggests it will not have negative side-effects in people.
“Ab8 not only has potential as a therapy for COVID-19, but it also could be used to keep people from getting SARS-CoV-2 infections,” said co-author John Mellors, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Pitt and UPMC. “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.”
According to Mellors, the biological molecule they’ve discovered and have used to make Ab8 could also give protection to “those who have never had the infection and are not immune.”
The researcher’s findings, which were reported Monday, are based on applications in infected mice and hamsters. The hope is that the tiny size of the biological molecule will increase the potential that it can infuse into tissue with better results, therefore better neutralizing the coronavirus.
A senior author of the journal Cell publication, Dimiter Dimitrov, Director of the University of Pittsburgh Center for Antibody Therapeutics, was also one of the first to discover that antibodies had the potential to neutralize the original SARS coronavirus back in 2003.
Researchers are also “thinking outside the box” for how the drug could be administered, stating it may be able to be inhaled or through a superficial injection, instead of an IV.