The European Union’s drug watchdog warned on December 9 that antibody therapies for COVID-19 are ineffective against new strains that have become too common.
Many monoclonal antibody therapies are used in hospitals to help prevent the worst of the disease in at-risk or hospitalized patients.
These therapies work by targeting viral proteins. But the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has warned that these treatments are unlikely to target new emerging strains.
According to laboratory tests, these treatments are effective against omicron insertion strains BA.4.5; Amsterdam-based EMA reported weak BA.2.75.2 and XBB in nullifying effects. In the coming weeks, BQ.1 and BQ.1.1, considered the most infectious strains in the European Union, could also be significantly neutralized.
Leading antibody therapies include AstraZeneca’s Evusheld; These include Ranapreve from Roche and Xevudy from GSK and Vir.
The EMA says antiviral therapies like Pfizer’s Paxlovid will continue to be effective and that EU countries should stock these therapies for high-risk patients.
Monoclonal antibody therapy has been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization and death by up to 80%, but effectiveness rates are reduced because the virus mutates.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommended in September that Xevudy and Ronapreve are effective in preventing new strains. COVID-19 has been a global pandemic since late 2019, when it first emerged in China and is now in decline.
Omicron and its successors became dominant around 2022, after previously feared variants like Alpha and Delta gradually faded and are expected to continue into 2023.
Strains BA.4 and BA.5 have been particularly active in recent months in Europe and the United States, causing new waves of infections.
All strains of omicron are not serious and are less likely to cause lung damage and disease, which can cause symptoms such as fatigue and loss of smell.