The clinical study of a hyperimmune equine serum to combat Covid-19 is being carried out in patients from 18 hospitals in Argentina, the scientific director of the project told AFP.
“If the efficacy is demonstrated in the clinical study, whose results we expect in the coming weeks, our serum has the advantage that it does not require donors, it can be produced in large quantities and administered to each patient in a known concentration of antibodies,” said Fernando Goldbaum , director of the biotechnology firm Inmunova.
The clinical evaluation phase includes the voluntary participation of 242 patients and its completion is estimated for the month of October.
“As of today, almost 60% of the clinical study has been completed,” said Goldbaum, who also directs a scientific center at the state University of San Martín and the Laboratory of Immunology and Molecular Microbiology of the Leloir Institute Foundation.
Argentina has registered more than 577,000 cases of coronavirus, with almost 12,000 deaths — a mortality rate that, despite the death toll, is not among the highest in the region.
The experiment “is based on equine polyclonal antibodies, obtained by injecting a recombinant SARS-CoV-2 protein into these animals, innocuous for them, which causes them to generate a large amount of neutralizing antibodies,” the firm indicated.
Phase 2/3 of the study evaluates the safety and efficacy of the serum in adult patients with moderate to severe disease, within ten days of the onset of symptoms and requiring hospitalization.
After the extraction of plasma from horses, a process similar to that used when it is extracted from people, “the antibodies are purified and processed, through a biotechnological process,” according to the researchers.
“In in vitro laboratory tests, it demonstrated the ability to neutralize the virus, with a potency around 50 times greater than the average convalescent plasma,” Immunoba added.
“The laboratory, regardless of the final result, has already begun to produce the serum to have it readily available if it is effective and authorized,” added a source from the project.
Costa Rica began testing a similar treatment in humans earlier this month, with the first results expected in a few weeks, according to authorities.
In Brazil, the Vital Brazil Institute, the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) are preparing to start their trial with equine plasma in Covid-19 patients.