US, China working on new coronavirus treatment
WASHINGTON: The United States is working with a pharmaceutical company to develop a treatment for the coronavirus which started in Wuhan, China, using a class of drug that has boosted survival rates among Ebola patients, officials said Tuesday.
The partnership between the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Regeneron will develop monoclonal antibodies to fight the infection, a different line of treatment to the antiretrovirals and flu drugs that have also emerged as possible defences against the disease.
At least 490 people have died as a result of the virus since it emerged in a Chinese live seafood and wild animal market at the end of last year.
"Emerging infectious diseases can present serious threats to our nation's health security," said HHS official Rick Bright.
"Working as public-private partners like we have with Regeneron since 2014, we can move rapidly to respond to new global health threats."
Monoclonal antibodies are lab-produced copies of a single type of antibody and are a form of immunotherapy.
They lock on to certain proteins on a virus, neutralising the pathogen's ability to infect human cells.
Regeneron's REGN-EB3, a cocktail of three monoclonal antibodies, was last year shown to significantly boost survival rates among Ebola patients in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The company has also developed a treatment for the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (Mers) along similar lines.
In China, a state-run Chinese research institute has applied for a patent on the use of Gilead Sciences' experimental US antiviral drug.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology of the China Academy of Sciences said in a statement on Tuesday it applied to patent the use of Remdesivir.
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine last week reported a coronavirus patient in the US was found to show an improvement after taking Remdesivir, which is also used to treat infectious diseases such as Ebola. - AFP, REUTERS