AstraZeneca COVID drug neutralises Omicron sub-variants in lab study

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  • Evusheld reduces viral load of all tested Omicron sub-variants -study
  • Also limited lung inflammation in mice lungs
  • Britain approved the preventative COVID therapy last week

March 21 (Reuters) - AstraZeneca (AZN.L) said on Monday its antibody-based cocktail to prevent and treat COVID-19 retained neutralising activity against Omicron coronavirus variants, including the highly contagious BA.2 sub-variant, in an independent lab study.

This is the first data looking at the impact of AstraZeneca's Evusheld treatment on "cousins" of the Omicron variant following a recent global spike in cases. The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker said in December that another lab study found that Evusheld retained neutralising activity against Omicron. read more

Data from the latest study by Washington University in the United States showed the therapy reduced the amount of virus detected in samples - viral load - of all tested Omicron sub-variants in mice lungs, AstraZeneca said. The study has yet to be peer reviewed.

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Evusheld was tested against the BA.1, BA.1.1, and BA.2 sub-variants of Omicron and it was also shown in the study to limit inflammation in the lungs - a critical symptom in severe COVID-19 infections.

"The findings further support Evusheld as a potential important option to help protect vulnerable patients such as the immunocompromised who could face poor outcomes if they were to become infected with COVID-19," John Perez, head of Late Development, Vaccines & Immune Therapies at AstraZeneca, said.

The logo of AstraZeneca is seen on medication packages in a pharmacy in London April 28, 2014. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

Last week the World Health Organization said figures showing a global rise in COVID-19 cases could herald a much bigger problem, as the Omicron and BA.2 variants spread amid the easing of restrictions and testing. read more

Evusheld was found to cut the risk of developing symptomatic COVID-19 by 77% in trials, Britain's drug regulator said last week, after approving the therapy for preventing infections in adults with poor immune response. read more

Evusheld has also been shown to save lives and prevent disease progression when given within a week of first symptoms.

While vaccines rely on an intact immune system to develop targeted antibodies and infection-fighting cells, Evusheld contains lab-made antibodies designed to linger in the body for months to contain the virus in case of an infection.

The therapy is currently under a European review. It has already been authorised in the United States.

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Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila, Aditya Soni and Susan Fenton

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