New treatment could offer immediate protection to people who have been exposed to Covid-19

Antibody used in two trials could confer immediate immunity on those at risk of contracting virus

<p>University College Hospital in London, part of the trust where the trials are underway</p>

University College Hospital in London, part of the trust where the trials are underway

Scientists are trialling an antibody treatment for Covid sufferers that could prevent someone exposed to the virus from falling ill in a potentially life-saving breakthrough.

Researchers from the University College London Hospitals (UCLH) are looking into the possibility that the antibody treatment, developed by AstraZeneca, could confer immunity on those in need.

The therapeutic, part of the Storm Chaser project, could then be used to prevent others from developing Covid-19 symptoms once one person in a household has fallen ill.

At the same time a second trial undertaken by UCLH called Provent will see if the treatment could be used on people with poor immune systems who have been at high-risk from the virus.

NHS England national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said: “The continuing contribution of the NHS to pioneering global efforts to fight Covid-19 is remarkable.

“These two clinical trials are an important addition to testing new therapeutic approaches, as antibody treatments may offer an alternative to patient groups who cannot benefit from a vaccine, such as immunocompromised patients.”

Researchers have so far injected 10 people as part of Storm Chaser at its new vaccine research centre after the study entered phase three trials on 2 December, with an aim to trial the new treatment on 1,125 people globally including healthcare workers, students in shared accommodation and recently exposed patients.

Those in long-term care, the military and workers including factory employees are also slated to be part of the trial.

UCLH virologist Dr Catherine Houlihan, who is leading the Storm Chaser trial, said: “We know that this antibody combination can neutralise the virus, so we hope to find that giving this treatment via injection can lead to immediate protection against the development of Covid-19 in people who have been exposed - when it would be too late to offer a vaccine.”

Meanwhile the Provent trial will see the recruitment of older people and those in long-term care, as well as people with conditions such as cancer and HIV.

UCLH infectious diseases consultant Dr Nicky Longley, who is leading the university’s portion of Provent, said: “We want to reassure anyone for whom a vaccine may not work that we can offer an alternative which is just as protective.”

Additional reporting by agencies

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