Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine said they completed a first-of-its-kind study involving inhaled nanobodies that effectively prevented and treated severe COVID-19 in hamsters. Nanobodies are similar to monoclonal antibodies but are smaller in size, more stable and cheaper to produce, a news release explained.
For the study, which was published Wednesday in Science Advances, researchers administered low doses of the inhalable nanobody-21 (PiN-21) to hamsters to see if it protected against the dramatic weight loss associated with severe SARS-CoV-2 infection. The team said that not only did it prevent the weight loss, but it also reduced the number of infectious particles in the animals’ nasal cavities, throats and lungs by a million-fold compared to the placebo group.
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“By using an inhalation therapy that can be directly administered to the infection site – the respiratory tract and lungs – we can make treatment more efficient,” Ui Shi, Ph.D., co-senior author and assistant professor of cell biology at Pitt, said in the news release. “We are very excited and encouraged by our data suggesting that PiN-21 can be highly protected against severe disease and can potentially prevent human-to-human viral transmission.”
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The researchers also noted that the nanobodies are complimentary to vaccines, and are not meant to replace or compete with them. However, they said not only could nanobodies help treat people already sickened by the virus, but also could provide an alternative form of protection for people who are unable to get vaccinated for other medical reasons.