Scientists say they have discovered an antibody which prevents coronavirus from infecting human cells.
Researchers from Utrecht University in the Netherlands, as well as the Erasmus Medical Centre and the company Harbour BioMed (HBM) discovered the antibody blocks infection by SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus behind the current global health crisis, the Daily Mail reported.
Tests in mice cells showed that 47D11 binds to this protein and prevents it from hooking on – effectively neutralising it.
The breakthrough offers hope of a treatment or a vaccine for the deadly virus, which has infected more than 3.6 million worldwide and killed over 250,000 people.
Study co-lead author Professor Berend-Jan Bosch said the antibody targets the deadly bug's infamous "spike protein".
The virus hooks onto a locking point on human cells to insert its genetic material, make multiples copies of itself and spread throughout the body.
"This research builds on the work our groups have done in the past on antibodies targeting the SARS-CoV that emerged in 2002/2003,Prof Bosch said.
"Using this collection of SARS-CoV antibodies, we identified an antibody that also neutralises infection of SARS-CoV-2 in cultured cells.
"Such a neutralising antibody has 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."
Dr Bosch added that the antibody's ability to neutralise both strains of SARS-CoV suggests that it may have potential in mitigation of diseases caused by future emerging coronaviruses.
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"The antibody used in this work is 'fully human' – allowing development to proceed more rapidly and reducing the potential for immune-related side effects," co-lead author Prof Frank Grosveld, of Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, said.
Further studies are planned to see if the findings translate to the clinic.
The therapy is being developed by Massachusetts-based global tech giant Harbour BioMed.
Founder and chair Dr Jingsong Wang said: "This is groundbreaking research.
"Much more work is needed to assess whether this antibody can protect or reduce the severity of disease in humans.
"We expect to advance development of the antibody with partners.
"We believe our technology can contribute to addressing this most urgent public health need and we are pursuing several other research avenues."
- additonal reporting The Sun, Daily Mail