British regulators on Thursday approved a GlaxoSmithKline drug to treat those at high risk of developing severe Covid-19 symptoms, with the manufacturer saying it appears effective against the new Omicron variant.
The antibody treatment, sotrovimab, "was found to be safe and effective at reducing the risk of hospitalisation and death in people with mild to moderate COVID-19 infection who are at an increased risk of developing severe disease," said the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Preclinical data showed that the drug "retains activity against key mutations of the new Omicron SARS-CoV-2 variant," GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) said in a statement.
"To date, sotrovimab has demonstrated ongoing activity against all tested variants of concern and interest defined by the World Health Organization (WHO)," it added.
Testing is ongoing "to confirm the neutralising activity of sotrovimab against the combination of all the Omicron mutations with the intent to provide an update by the end of 2021."
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
A single dose of the drug was found to reduce the risk of hospitalisation and death by 79 percent in high-risk adults with symptomatic COVID-19 infection, according to the MHRA.
Sotrovimab was developed by Britain's GSK and Vir Biotechnology based out of California.It is a monoclonal antibody, a type of protein that attaches to the spike protein of the coronavirus, reducing its ability to enter the body's cells.