According to a new study by an international team of researchers at the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH), it is unclear whether an antibody designed to treat a newly-created variant of omicronovirus—one responsible for an infection that costs 25 million people worldwide $10 billion a year—is as effective at preventing infection as older, approved vaccines.
In the paper, recently published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, the researchers write that although the antibodies produced by patients who received the antibodies were found to be more than 10 times more potent than the older vaccines, they can still only account for 30 percent of infection cases. This means that the older vaccines are still better than the new antibody at preventing infection, despite its differences.
The new variant of omicronovirus is often referred to as Omegavirus O1, or Omegavirus O1V, and has been estimated to infect at least 110 countries worldwide. It is especially likely to cause dysentery, an illness characterized by diarrhea that results in constipation.
The researchers note that this condition is particularly rampant in populations with poor sanitation. Children who live in fields and who wash their hands are most vulnerable to the illness, they add. For patients with infection, the new vaccine might be helpful in limiting the duration of the illness, but the results of the new study suggest that it is unclear whether it is effective against the newer variant in cases where a patient suffers from hemorrhaging.
To investigate the effectiveness of antibodies against the newer variant, the researchers compared it to four drugs—two of which were already approved for use against the older omicronovirus variants, Prevnar and ZMapp, and one of which was not—by testing for different rates of hemorrhaging and osteomyelitis (an infection of the spinal cord) in patients. Since the new variant is more virulent, and resistant to the previous versions of the antibodies used to treat it, it was expected that more of the patients who received them would have an infection. The researchers found that only 3.6 percent of patients who were given the new antibodies had an infection, compared to 16.8 percent of patients who were given the drugs.
Of course, it may be that this difference is too small to have a significant impact on the overall success of the two treatments. The findings of the new study may also be affected by factors that are beyond the control of doctors and the study authors. People who get serious infections following the use of the antibodies are more likely to get a post-infection infection, and this new study suggests that doctors should proceed with caution when giving the antibodies to patients with severe infection.
Read the full story at the Huffington Post.
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