Monoclonal antibodies: how do they help against corona infection?

Monoclonal antibodies are often mentioned in connection with the treatment of a corona infection. Similar to a vaccination, the special antibodies can prevent the dangerous spread of the virus in the body and reduce the risk of a severe course of COVID-19.

Some monoclonal antibodies against  COVID-19  , given early, can help protect negative close contacts of a COVID-19 patient from infection. The risk for asymptomatic people who are already infected to develop symptoms could be reduced by up to 31 percent and the administration could promote a mild course of COVID.

What are monoclonal antibodies?

Monoclonal antibodies are usually antibodies that are formed on the basis of certain cells, such as a virus, and defend themselves against this virus. These antibodies are usually genetically modified in the laboratory. In general, they can be used in diagnostics and therapy, for example in immunosuppression (specific suppression of a reaction of the immune system) or for cancer therapy.

Monoclonal antibodies are also being developed against COVID-19, which are used in various areas. The antibodies are obtained from specific immune cells in the blood of patients who have already recovered.

Monoclonal antibodies in COVID-19: application in immunotherapy

Monoclonal antibodies are used, among other things, to prevent or slow down the body’s immune response in the event of a corona infection. In fact, the extreme response of the immune system to the virus can result in tissue damage, lung damage and clinical deterioration of the general condition.

Monoclonal antibodies dampen the inflammatory response and disrupt cell signaling pathways, which can reduce the overactive immune response. This is intended to prevent severe COVID-19 courses.

Monoclonal antibodies prevent severe COVID-19 disease

Monoclonal antibodies bind to structures on the virus or block receptors on human cells. The entry of the virus and a possible interaction between the virus and  the immune system  could be reduced from the start.

Although the monoclonal antibodies have not yet been approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), they can be used against the   SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in Germany if available. The current antibodies are

  • Bamlanivimab from US drug company Eli Lilly.
  • RegnCoV-2 from casirivimab/imdevimab from the Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche and the US company Regeneron.

Monoclonal antibodies can protect the body from a severe course after contact with corona infected people, but are particularly useful in combination with the dangerous virus mutations, i.e. the British variant B.1.1.7 as well as the South African variant (B.1.135) and the Brazilian one Variant (P.1) should be viewed with caution.

Experts from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) warn of so-called escape mutations, which can evade complete virus elimination. Therefore, when possible, antibody combinations should be used to prevent these escape mutations.

Monoclonal antibodies can be used after contact with an infected person, in the event of an asymptomatic infection or to treat an overreaction of the immune system, but they do not replace long-term vaccines and, as a result, the antibodies against the coronavirus that the body produces itself.


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