Safety of COVID-19 antibody treatment tested #InMice #InMonkeys

June 22nd, 2021

While much has been written about the various COVID-19 vaccines (prevention), including here are Speaking of Research, less emphasis has been placed on the treatment of COVID-19 patients—both earlier on in the pandemic and even at present. Part of this relates to some inherent skepticism of the value of using existing treatments for a new emergent disease. One of the primary issues with using drugs whose safety profiles have not been extensively tested in relation to a new disease, is the potential for harm to the patient. Here, animal research–in the form of safety and efficacy testing–is invaluable. Moreover, although we currently have working vaccines, these might only be temporary with new COVID-19 variants arising and many parts of the globe not having yet received the vaccines. Thus it is imperative to develop technologies that can partially protect and treat people in regions of the globe as they wait for the prevention vaccine option.

Source: NIAID. This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—isolated from a patient in the U.S.

As we wrote about during #WorldImmunizationWeek, the safety and efficacy of all vaccines prior to being used in humans is generally evaluated in animals first. The COVID-19 pandemic represented one exception to that rule where safety and efficacy testing was, in part, evaluated in tandem with Phase 1 clinical trials (where the smallest number of human subjects are enrolled). One of the reasons for performing safety and efficacy testing in animals first deals with the fact that antibodies can trigger, in general, two kinds of responses in the body with respect to a virus like COVID-19—neutralization or enhancement. Thus, when various doctors and pharmaceutical companies proposed using blood plasma containing COVID-19 antibodies (natural) or using antibody cocktails (manufactured), to treat COVID-19 patients, there was some pause. Treatment should afterall proceed only if there was sufficient evidence that there was potential for no harm or only minimal harm in relation to the benefits that could accrue to the patients.

New research #InMice and #InMonkeys has now demonstrated that “human antibodies lacked the ability to make SARS-CoV-2 infection worse and, instead, exerted their defensive powers against the infection.” This is good.

“Our study, using mice and monkeys, demonstrates that antibodies that are potentially harmful in the test tube do not appear to be harmful in the setting of SARS-CoV-2 infection in mice or monkeys. We tested a number of disease-enhancing antibodies in mouse and monkey experiments — multiple trials with different antibodies — and determined that disease enhancement does not occur in the animals, and that’s good news for the development of effective treatments and vaccines. ”

Co-senior author Barton F. Haynes, M.D., director of the Duke Human Vaccine Institute (DHVI).

This study is another example of the vital role that #AnimalResearch plays in ensuring the health and well-being of our loved ones with COVID-19 and as we have pointed out before also in the treatment of non-human animals with COVID-19. It also is imperative that we continue working with animals to further develop treatment technologies to combat new variants and protect regions of the globe that are struggling with vaccine production and distribution.

~Speaking of Research