On Wednesday the UAE became the first country in the world to receive a shipment of a new, highly effective treatment for Covid-19.
Sotrovimab, hailed as a game-changer by doctors, is now available for early treatment for selected patients in the country.
So, what is it and how does it work?
The National explains.
What is Sotrovimab?
It is a type of monoclonal antibody, an artificially made protein that acts like human antibodies in the immune system.
The protein is directed against the virus’s spike, which it uses to attach to and enter human cells.
It blocks Sars-CoV-2 from entering healthy cells and helps to clear infected ones, preventing the disease from progressing.
It is specifically for the treatment of mild to moderate disease and is given to adults and children over the age of 12 who are at risk of developing severe symptoms.
It is the first treatment of its kind to receive approval for use in the US.
"It is the first therapy issued by the Food and Drug Administration in the US for treatment of mild-to-moderate coronavirus disease in adults and paediatric patients older than 12 years and who weigh more than 40kg, who are at high risk for progression to severe Covid-19, including hospitalisation or death," said Dr Rehab Farahat, a general practitioner at Bareen International Hospital, Mohamed bin Zayed City.
How effective is it?
A study of 585 adult outpatients with mild to moderate symptoms found it was 85 per cent effective.
Of those patients, 291 received Sotrovimab, while the remaining 292 had a placebo. Treatment began within five days of the start of symptoms. Hospital admission or death occurred in 7 per cent of patients in the placebo group, and 1 per cent among those who received Sotrovimab.
But it is used only in patients with mild to moderate symptoms. It is of no benefit to severely affected patients and may even worsen their condition, manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline said.
Why do we need new treatments against Covid-19?
There are not enough treatments to fight the novel coronavirus, specifically ones that prevent the disease from progressing in high-risk patients.
Doctors say Sotrovimab will be a game-changer.
“With this treatment, we can provide another option to keep high-risk Covid patients out of hospital and manage at home only,” said Dr Pavan Shrivastava, a consultant in internal medicine at NMC Specialty Hospital, Al Nahda, Dubai.
“It is very good for high-risk individuals who are 65 years and above, or individuals who have certain chronic medical conditions.
“In my opinion, it’s going to be a breakthrough in the management of Covid infections.
"This will definitely reduce hospitalisation and mortality.”
Will it work against the variants?
It should, yes.
“Laboratory testing showed that Sotrovimab retains activity against the current circulating variants,” Dr Shrivastava said.