An article published by ScienceNews discusses the possible usage of lab-made monoclonal antibodies to treat COVID-19 patients. The first study surrounding monoclonal antibodies suggests that monoclonal antibody drugs can help reduce the number of COVID-19 patients who need a ventilator. The second study explores how the monoclonal antibody drugs can help reduce the amount of COVID-19 viruses in the body, and it explores what the ideal dosage would be to induce the best results to fight against COVID-19.

        In general, antibodies attach to a specific antigen on a virus or infection to send signals to the cell to attack the invader. Monoclonal antibodies can be specifically made to target a specific virus and reduce its ability to replicate, namely, the coronavirus. One of these lab-made monoclonal antibodies is tocilizumab, which reduces inflammation caused by the coronavirus. The first trial of tocilizumab done by Genentech, a biotechnology company, was composed of 452 people who had severe COVID-19 symptoms. It was found that tocilizumab did not reduce the likelihood of death or decrease the intensity of symptoms. However, in phase three of the second trial, Genentech found that out of 389 patients hospitalized due to coronavirus infection that were given tocilizumab were 44% less likely to need a ventilator.

        Tocilizumab can also help combat cytokine storms- a very dangerous reaction to the coronavirus. When a pathogen- the coronavirus in this case- enters the cell, mast cells release histamine. Large phagocytic cells also release cytokines to trigger an innate cellular defense. During a cytokine storm, a large number of cytokines (a type of immune system protein) are secreted. This large amount creates an immune response in which human cells start to attack their own cells. Mukesh Kuma, an immunologist at Georgia State University in Atlanta found that the amount of cytokines produced as a result of SARS-CoV-2 infections is almost 50 times higher than Zika or West Nile virus infections.

        The article also discusses the use of LY-CoV555. LY-CoV555 is another type of monoclonal antibody. It specifically targets the coronavirus’ spike protein. The spike proteins on the coronavirus attach to the ACE2 receptor protein on human cells. This activates the A2 domain, and the virus can then fuse with the host cell membrane. By doing so, the spike protein acts as a key to get into the cell. The virus does not have to undergo receptor-mediated endocytosis, so the virus can enter the cell without a phospholipid membrane enclosing it. By attacking this spike protein, the LY-CoV55 destroys the virus’s ability to enter the cell. After discovering that LY-CoV555 was successful in reducing coronavirus symptoms, scientists conducted tests to find the ideal amount of LY-CoV555 dosage. They found that those who were given a “medium” amount of the dosage had the most success; 1.7 % of people with the medium dosage ended up being hospitalized, while about 9% of people who received a placebo were hospitalized. 

        Bamlanivimab is another type of monoclonal antibody specific for the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2. It also stops the coronavirus from attaching to the ACE2 receptor protein and prevents it from passing through the human cell membrane to its interior. On November 9th, 2020, the FDA recently allowed the emergency use of the Bamlanivimab antibody for those infected by the virus that is twelve years or older and is at high risk for the deadly side effects of the coronavirus.

        Rajesh Gandhi, an infectious disease physician at Harvard Medical School, and other scientists think that these trials are an important step, as they show that an monoclonal antibody is having an antiviral effect. While I have experienced any of the monoclonal antibody drugs, I think that they are a progressive move. If monoclonal antibodies can be distributed to various countries, I think that they could be a useful temporary solution for the coronavirus while the world awaits a vaccine in the coming winter months. 

        Do you think monoclonal antibodies could be helpful to COVID-19 patients? Would you prefer monoclonal antibody drugs to a COVID-19 vaccine? Comment down below!