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Why it matters: With the number of worldwide Covid-19 infections having passed 850,000 and the death toll above 42,000 the race is on to find a cure or vaccine. In China, a team of scientists says it may have taken a step toward that goal after it found several antibodies that are "extremely effective" at blocking the virus from entering human cells.
In an interview with Reuters, Zhang Linqi at Tsinghua University in Beijing said his team and a group at the 3rd People's Hospital in Shenzhen began collecting blood samples in January from patients who had recovered from Covid-19. They managed to isolate 206 monoclonal antibodies that have a "strong" ability to connect with the virus' proteins.
The scientists found that out of the first 20 antibodies they tested, four were able to block the virus from entering human cells, while two were "exceedingly good" at this task.
The team is now trying to identify the most powerful antibodies and combine them to reduce the chances of the virus mutating.
The antibodies could be used to create a drug for at-risk people, preventing them from contracting Covid-19. If all goes well, it could be tested on humans in just six months. Reuters notes that it normally takes around two years before a drug is approved for use on patients, but the process could be expedited due to the pandemic.
"The importance of antibodies has been proven in the world of medicine for decades now," Zhang said. "They can be used to treat cancer, autoimmune diseases and infectious diseases."
If you want to help find potential cures for Covid-19 and other diseases, contribute your spare computing power to the Folding@home project, which recently exceeded 1.5 ExaFLOPS of performance.