SEP 03, 2020 7:30 AM PDT

A Low-Cost COVID-19 Treatment, Made in Horses

WRITTEN BY: Tara Fernandez

Researchers in Costa Rica are turning to horses as an unlikely source of potential therapeutic antibodies against COVID-19. If these equine immunoglobulins prove to be effective in humans, they could fill a desperately needed gap in accessible pharmaceuticals to help patients with severe, life-threatening cases of COVID-19. Critically, horse antibodies would be significantly cheaper to mass-produce than human antibodies.

So far, preliminary studies in the lab show that the horse antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 were able to kill the virus. The Clodomiro Picado Institute first started using horses to create antibodies as antidotes to venomous snake and spider bites. Horses are exposed to minute amounts of these venoms and over time, build up resistance to them by generating venom-targeting antibodies. Equine antivenoms manufactured at the institute save the lives of over 500 people in Costa Rica annually, and thousands more in other countries.

The team is now channeling their expertise in equine immunology into generating COVID-19 treatments, by swapping venom injections for the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2. This work has been spurred by previous successes in generating antibodies against other pathogenic viruses such as influenza and a related coronavirus that causes the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS.

Alape Girón, lead researcher of the COVID-19 project said, “The idea behind the antibody therapy for patients with COVID-19 is similar to that of treating patients suffering from snakebite poisoning.”

“We want to generate specific antibodies against viral structures in horses, purify the antibodies and give them to patients who are starting to fight the infection but whose immune system still does not produce enough antibodies to clear the viral particles, ” he explained.

The next steps for the team include an accelerated clinical trial to test their efficacy in 26 COVID patients, scheduled to commence shortly. Should the results turn out to be promising, more comprehensive clinical studies involving larger cohorts will be conducted. A single vial of horse antibodies, which target multiple sites on the coronavirus, will cost an estimated $100 to manufacture, around ten-fold cheaper than what it costs to make a human monoclonal equivalent.

 

 

Source: Scientific American.


 

About the Author
  • Tara Fernandez has a PhD in Cell Biology and has spent over a decade uncovering the molecular basis of diseases ranging from skin cancer to obesity and diabetes. She currently works on developing and marketing disruptive new technologies in the biotechnology industry. Her areas of interest include innovation in molecular diagnostics, cell therapies, and immunology. She actively participates in various science communication and public engagement initiatives to promote STEM in the community.
You May Also Like
OCT 06, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
New Immunotherapy Drug Effective Against Lung Cancer
OCT 06, 2020
New Immunotherapy Drug Effective Against Lung Cancer
A new study has confirmed that Tecentriq, an immunotherapy drug, improves survival rates among those with newly diagnose ...
OCT 11, 2020
Microbiology
Getting Closer to a Vaccine for Flaviviruses
OCT 11, 2020
Getting Closer to a Vaccine for Flaviviruses
Flaviviruses like dengue, West Nile, Zika, Japanese Encephalitis, and yellow fever infect over 400 million people a year ...
OCT 12, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
The Malaria Parasite Can Change Host Cell Genetics
OCT 12, 2020
The Malaria Parasite Can Change Host Cell Genetics
Mosquitoes can transmit the malaria-causing Plasmodium parasite to humans. Malaria was estimated to have caused the deat ...
NOV 02, 2020
Immunology
New Cancer Drug Reboots Stalled Immunotherapies
NOV 02, 2020
New Cancer Drug Reboots Stalled Immunotherapies
In contrast to traditional chemotherapies, immunotherapies reprogram the patient’s own immune system to fight tumo ...
NOV 17, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
Antibiotics Before Age 2 Linked to Childhood Health Conditions
NOV 17, 2020
Antibiotics Before Age 2 Linked to Childhood Health Conditions
Researchers from Mayo Clinic have found a link between children aged two and under taking antibiotics and an increased r ...
DEC 20, 2020
Microbiology
How Do mRNA Vaccines Work?
DEC 20, 2020
How Do mRNA Vaccines Work?
Scientist Katalin Karikó studied mRNA vaccines for years. She spent years getting grant rejections, but has now helped c ...
Loading Comments...