Cachoeiras de Macacu, Brazil, Apr 27 (EFE).- Brazilian researchers have developed an anti-Covid-19 serum using horse plasma that could create antibodies up to 100 times more potent than those produced by sick patients, and now they say they’re sure that clinical trials in humans will begin very soon.
The product – developed by researchers with the Institute Vital Brazil (IVB), the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) and the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) – is made by introducing a portion of the SARS-CoV-2 virus into horses to get them to produce antibodies, and then their blood plasma is removed and later inserted into infected humans.
After filing a patent request last August, the IVB now is in talks with the National Health Monitoring Agency (Anvisa), Brazil’s health regulatory body, to get the clinical trials under way.
“Ending the preclinical phase, we’re going to enter into the testing process (in humans) along with the Instituto D’Or, with 41 patients,” the vice president of the institution, Karina Belfort de Almeida, told EFE.
At its research facility located in the city of Cachoeiras de Macacu, some 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Rio de Janeiro, about 10 horses are producing the so-called “hyper-immune plasma” that serves as the raw material for the manufacture of the anti-Covid serum.
After being removed from the blood of the horses, the substance is taken to an industrial plant where the antibody serum is processed and packaged in vials for administration to patients.
The medication is being viewed by the medical and scientific community as a significant ray of hope for treating Covid-19 in Brazil, which is suffering through a health crisis with a death toll so far of more than 391,000, 14.3 million confirmed Covid cases and a health care system in collapse.
“The serum increases the patient’s level of antibodies. When it’s injected, it will augment the natural production of antibodies by that patient,” Belfort de Almeida said.
An “old technological method” is used to produce the medication, according to researcher Marcelo Abrahao Strauch, adding that innovative technology for producing antigens using recombined DNA is also employed.
“With the antigen, we’re introducing this innovation … which allows the production of antibodies against the coronavirus by the animals,” he said.
Currently, the IVB research facility, which has been producing various serums using horse plasma for more than a century, maintains 150 horses to help turn out the hyper-immune products to treat poisonous animal bites.
According to the technical chief at the facility, Leonardo Galileu Ramos Meirelles, the procedure does not harm the animals, which spend a good portion of the day roaming free outside and are provided with rich and diversified food.
“Besides the fact that the horse is a blood-producing machine, … it’s also present all over the world and it’s a low-cost animal,” he told EFE.
According to IVB’s industrial director, Marcia de Souza Antunes, production capacity at present is some 14,000 ampules of anti-Covid serum per minute.
However, researchers still don’t know when the drug might become publicly available since that depends on the approval of the regulatory agency for starting the clinical trials, as well as on the results obtained from them.