Israel Researchers Have Developed a Coronavirus Antibody. But Are We Any Closer to a Cure?


Israel Researchers Have Developed a Coronavirus Antibody. But Are We Any Closer to a Cure?

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

Over the last couple of days, the coronavirus lockdown has been lifted in some parts of the country, but in others, not much has changed. With some of the biggest states recording spikes in cases, and the four most populated cities still under lockdown, it’s seeming more likely that a vaccine or cure could be our only way out.

Luckily, also over the last couple of days, there have been a couple of “significant breakthroughs” in that regard.

Researchers from Israel said on Monday that they had isolated an antibody “that attacks the virus in a monoclonal way and can neutralise it within the bodies of those ill.” Or, in simpler words, found a way to kill Covid-19 in humans.

A statement from the country’s defence ministry said researchers at the Israel Institute for Biological Research were already moving to patent and mass-produce the antibodies.

Whether the antibodies had been trialled in humans yet was unclear, but in a report attributed to PTI, the IIBR has identified the protein that is efficient in killing the virus in a patient’s body, and will publish a study in this regard soon.

There was more good news in the neighbouring continent, meanwhile, after researchers in the Netherlands similarly announced that they too had managed to halt the infection in lab settings.

While, again, it wasn’t clear if the antibodies had been trialled in humans, the “neutralising antibody has the potential to alter the course of infection in the infected host, support virus clearance or protect an uninfected individual that is exposed to the virus,” Berend-Jan Bosch from the Utrecht University said.

A few days ago, research teams in Texas and Belgium had said that, during their attempts to cure Covid, they had found an unlikely ally in a llama named Winter.

The study they released details how special antibodies within llama blood can be joined together to create a new antibody, one that can prevent the coronavirus from infecting other cells. In 2016, the same llama, Winter, had helped scientists study the coronaviruses that cause SARS and MERS.

Following the latest breakthrough, the researchers said, they will begin tests on hamsters and non-human primates, with the hope of eventually developing a cure for humans.

Considering all these treatments are still in their early stages, experts have advised that we look on them with cautious optimism. We still aren’t sure exactly when, and which one of these treatments will work. But given the number of breakthroughs in the last couple of weeks, alone, it doesn’t seem like it’ll be too long before we get our answer.