Clinical studies of a hyperimmune equine serum to combat Covid-19 are being carried out on patients in 18 hospitals in Argentina, the scientific director of the project has confirmed to the AFP news agency.
"In order to demonstrate its efficacy in the clinical studies, whose results we expect in the next few weeks, our serum has the advantage of not requiring donors so that it can be produced in large quantities and administered to each patient in a known concentration of antibodies," said Fernando Goldbaum, director of the biotech firm Inmunova.
The phase of clinical evaluation includes the voluntary participation of 242 patients with its finalisation estimated for some time next month.
"We’ve already completed almost 60 percent of clinical studies," said Goldbaum (who also directs a scientific centre belonging to the University of San Martín and the immunology and molecular microbiology lab of the Fundación Instituto Leloir) last Wednesday.
The experiment "is based on polyclonal equine antibodies, obtained via the injection of a recombinant protein of SARS-CoV-2 into these animals, innocuous for them, which causes a great quantity of neutralising antibodies to be generated," indicated the firm.
Phase 2/3 of the study evaluates the security and efficacy of the serum in adult patients with between moderate and severe degrees of the disease within 10 days of the onset of symptoms and requiring hospitalisation.
Following the extraction of the plasma (from horses), a process similar to its extraction from humans, "the antibodies are purified and processed via a biotech method," according to the investigators.
"In vitro lab tests have demonstrated the capacity to neutralise the virus with a power around 50 times greater on average than the plasma from convalescents," added Inmunoba.
The results of the tests were published in the specialised magazine Medicina.
"The lab, irrespective of the final results, has already started to produce the serum in order to have it rapidly available, should it prove effective and obtain authorisation," added a project source.
Last week Costa Rica began to test on humans a treatment similar to what is expected to be obtained from the first results in a few weeks, according to the authorities.
In Brazil, the Instituto Vital Brazil, the Federal University of Río de Janeiro and Fiocruz (the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation) are preparing to start testing equine plasma on Covid-19 patients.