COVID-19: The President’s Infection (Part 3 of 4)
Columbia University Professor Emeritus, Dr. David Figurski
Donna O’Donnell Figurski
(Disclaimer: The World Health Organization <WHO> has officially named the new coronavirus as SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes as COVID-19. Because the majority of people, including much of the press, commonly refer to the virus as “COVID-19,” to avoid confusion I use COVID-19 as the name of the virus in this post.)
The President was given two anti-COVID-19 drugs – the antiviral, remdesivir, which was used in the ultimately controlled Ebola pandemic and which was recently found to work on coronaviruses, and Regeneron’s experimental mixture of two monoclonal antibodies.
Remdesivir was found to inhibit the virus-encoded molecular machine that copies the chromosome of coronavirus to make more virus. Because it blocks virus multiplication, remdesivir shortens a hospital stay by 3-4 days.
Working with chimpanzees, Dr. Susan Weiss showed that remdesivir works best when given early in the infection when most viral multiplication takes place. This is impractical in humans because they don’t have symptoms for several days following infection.
Regeneron is developing a drug that seems to be effective against COVID-19, as suggested by a small clinical study. It is a mixture of two monoclonal antibodies.
When an individual gets infected with COVID-19, that individual makes a number of antibodies that bind the virus. There are many antibodies, but each one is produced by a single cellular clone (a cell and its descendants). Some of these antibodies are “neutralizing” antibodies, which inactivate the virus or block its ability to bind to a cell to start an infection. Such a diverse antibody response is said to be “polyclonal.” In 1984, César Milstein was awarded a Nobel Prize for developing a way to isolate a single-antibody-producing cell. As expected, its clone only produced one type of antibody. The antibody produced by such a cell line is a “monoclonal antibody.”
Regeneron’s scientists identified two COVID-19-neutralizing antibodies in people that recovered from a severe COVID-19 infection. They isolated the cell clones that produced them and put them into specially engineered mice so they could produce more of each antibody. The President was given this experimental drug because the Food and Drug Administration issued a Compassionate Use authorization.
(Irrelevant fact: I know Dr. George Yancopoulis, who founded Regeneron and is now its Director and Chief Scientist. He earned both an M.D. and a Ph.D. at Columbia University while I was a professor there. He worked on his Ph.D. in the laboratory of Nobel Laureate Richard Axel, whose lab was a few floors below mine.)
The President was also given vitamin D, zinc, and melatonin. Vitamin D helps prevent infection. It is a preventative and not a therapeutic agent. Zinc is also thought to prevent infection, but there are no convincing studies on zinc. Melatonin was given as a sleep aid.
(To Be Continued)
(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)
(Photos compliments of contributor.)
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