Published on: June 10, 2021



What is in news : An experimental monoclonal antibody cocktail, REGEN-COV2, has been found to be a life-saving treatment for some of the most severely affected Covid-19 patients, results of a clinical trial in the UK have shown.

What are monoclonal antibodies?

  • To fight a viral infection, our bodies create proteins known as antibodies. Monoclonal antibodies are artificial antibodies that mimic the activity of our immune systems. They are produced through a process that involves extracting specific antibodies from human blood and then cloning them.
  • These monoclonal antibodies are designed to target a virus or a specific part of one — for instance, REGEN-COV2 is a cocktail of two monoclonal antibodies developed to target the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. The monoclonal antibodies bind to specific parts of the spike protein, blocking its ability to infect healthy cells.
  • Besides Covid-19, monoclonal antibodies have been used in the treatment of cancers as well as Ebola and HIV.

How important are they in Covid-19 treatment?

  • Research during the pandemic has increased optimism in monoclonal antibodies’ ability to help reduce the risk of hospitalisation. Some monoclonal antibodies have shown the ability to retain activity against multiple variants of the virus.
  • While a crucial and promising part of treatment, monoclonal antibodies also have limitations. So far, these therapies have shown the most success in high-risk groups with mild to moderate Covid-19. They are not approved for use in those hospitalised with severe Covid-19 and those requiring oxygen.
  • Some emerging variants like the Delta Plus “variant of interest” have also displayed the ability to nullify the use of monoclonal antibodies.

How do monoclonal antibodies compare with convalescent plasma therapy?

  • Convalescent plasma therapy involves providing antibodies from a recovered Covid-19 patient’s plasma. This means that those receiving this therapy would be getting all the antibodies the recovered patient has made.
  • Monoclonal antibodies are when you take a specific antibody and mass-manufacture it in a factory. For antibody cocktails, you provide a combination of two or more such antibodies.