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Amsterdam UMC investigates effect of antibody on coronavirus

Marleen Hoebe,
12 april 2020 - 17:05

The Amsterdam UMC is conducting a clinical comparative study into the effect of an antibody in patients with coronavirus. Medical specialist Alexander Vlaar: ‘We suspect that the immune system in corona patients is overreacting. Antibodies can block this.’

Some corona patients recover after about two weeks, says Vlaar. ‘Others remain seriously ill and have inflammatory complaints.’


The immune system responds by producing antibodies to protect the body like it does against other viruses. Sometimes, however, the system can do its job too well, causing more damage. ‘We suspect this is what’s happening with the coronavirus’, says Vlaar. ‘There might be an imbalance between fighting the virus and keeping the body intact.’


A certain inflammatory factor, complement factor C5a, is involved in the overreaction of the immune system. In a clinical comparative study, Amsterdam UMC scientists are examining whether you can block the mechanism behind this with a specific antibody. Vlaar: ‘Antibodies against C5a are used for other syndromes. A German pharmaceutical company recently conducted a Chinese study to find out which dosage eliminates the ‘inflammatory factor effect’. Our clinical study is randomised and controlled to see what the antibody does at different dosages. We’re the first in the world to conduct a study like this.’


Side effects 

In the first research phase, thirty corona patients who are seriously ill will receive the antibody via an IV-drip. Scientists will then analyse the results. Vlaar hopes the antibody will help calm the immune system and limit the damage. Buthe reminds us it’s just a study. ‘It sounds hopeful, but we cannot say anything about the results yet. The antibody has caused only mild side effects so far, precisely blocking the inflammatory factor C5a. The rest of the immune system can still fight other bacteria and viruses. We hope to know more in a few months.’