After receiving immunizations for two months, the horses donated to the Clodomiro Picado Institute (ICP) produced their maximum load of antibodies against the Novel Coronavirus, which now leads to the serum extraction.
This research center has now started with the last steps to create a treatment against COVOD-19 using plasma from immunized horses. With the antibodies ready, the process entered the purification phase. This was indicated by the director of the research center, Alberto Alape, who explained that this serum would be ready in the next few weeks and be tested in United States laboratories .
“The effectiveness of the serum is now to be evaluated in tests with cultured cells that will be carried out over the next few weeks in a specialized laboratory at George Mason University in the United States,” Alape explained.
The Institute completed the immunization phase of the horses, after applying SARS-CoV-2 virus proteins (causing Covid-19). Now, they will extract the antibodies from the blood and purify them in the laboratory to create the first 500 doses.
“If the results of these tests, and other quality control tests that will be done in our country, turn out well, the product would be ready in about a month,” explained the scientist. “The treatment may be used in the hospitals of the Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CCSS) once the corresponding clinical protocol is approved,” he added.
For his part, the president of the CCSS, Román Macaya, assured that this treatment would mean relief for the institution, since it can be produced in the nation. “If this works, we will produce it in Costa Rica. We are not going to suffer what is happening now with a lot of products that have to be bought, where everyone is buying from the same international factories and there are significant delays in deliveries,” said Macaya. “Few countries in the world are exploring an option like this (horse antibodies). Costa Rica is almost alone in that, with some notable expectations (internationally),” he added.
This is one of the three treatments the CCSS is betting on to combat COVID-19. Convalescent plasma from humans is another treatment and is already being applied to patients with COVID-19. Its effectiveness, however, is still unknown.
This type of treatment has been used for other diseases such as H1N1 influenza. Studies on its results are still inconclusive, as there have been no studies with randomized and controlled trials. However, a compilation of eight studies on this treatment for H1N1 concluded that “convalescent plasma can reduce mortality (from the disease) and appears to be safe.”
No blood available
On the other hand, another treatment that the CCSS is counting on is somewhat behind. This is based on creating a serum using – instead of horse plasma – the blood of patients recovered from Covid-19.
However, the limited availability of blood from recovered patients is awaiting the development of this treatment. This was indicated by the ICP, who is also in charge of developing this treatment.
“Due to the second wave of the Pandemic there has been an unexpected increase in the demand for plasma to be used for intransfusions to hospitalized patients. But it has not been possible to accumulate enough plasma to prepare the first batch of purified human antibodies”, said Alape.
Rather, the researcher assured that the horse plasma treatment of horses, which would have greater potency, is more likely to be used to confront this second pandemic wave in the country. “Fortunately, the equine antibody-based medicine will be ready ahead of schedule, which we hope will allow us to cope with the increase in the number of cases we are having”.