On 12 March 2020 a research paper from a team of researchers in The Netherlands was posted online on BioRxiv – a website where biologists can publish their research paper before being assessed by the journal “Nature”. In the summary, the scientists describe an antibody to SARS2, the coronavirus causing the current pandemic (COVID-19), which can help prevent the virus from being able to infect. The researchers stated “As far as we know, this is the very first antibody that blocks the infection. And there is a good chance that it will also become a medicine on the market.” On 14 March 2020, the existence of this article was announced in their University Newsletter but until the researchers know whether their peers have accepted their article they cannot go to the press about it. Hopefully the approval will come in a few days and then Nature will also send out a press release.
The researchers stated: “If you were to take this as a patient, it is expected – only an expectation right now – that the infection will be stopped. And so it can give the patient an opportunity to recover. But prevention is of course better than a cure: a real solution is therefore a vaccine, others are working on that. However, developing a vaccine can easily take two years. Our medicine, if it all works as it should, could be here sooner. But it will be more expensive to produce. A vaccine usually consists of a protein that comes from a virus or a killed virus. If you put a little bit of that in people or animals, they will make antibodies against it. This creates so-called memory cells that remember what they’ve seen before. If the virus tries to enter the body, those memory cells can respond quickly to it and ward off the virus. An antibody acts as a medicine, but the patient doesn’t make antibodies himself. If you administer the drug it will last for a few weeks. That’s enough for recovery, but probably not to keep the virus out forever. It’s better if the patient develops his own immunity.”
However, as a warning the researchers did state, “There was also a panic when SARS1 and MERS broke out. By the time there was a vaccine and antibodies, the virus was already gone.”