MANILA -- President Rodrigo Duterte late Monday said that he is likely to lift the lockdown in Luzon if the country can get an antibody treatment for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
"Kung nandiyan na 'yong antibody, available na sa market dito and it is being sold in quantity, in number, then I'm inclined to at that time to maybe lift the lockdown," Duterte said.
“Mayroon nang medisina, antibody, ang isang giant pharmaceutical (company) pero hindi galing sa tao. Sabi by May, they would start to market it,” he added.
“Kung meron na ‘yan, tapos makita ko na ginagamit ng tao, ili-lift ko. Tutal kung magkasakit kayo, may antibodies naman tayo mabili. Ngayon kung wala ka mabili, problema mo na ‘yan kasi tapos na yung lockdown,” Duterte said.
There are two types of antibodies associated with the COVID-19 immune response: IgM, which the body produces in the early stages of viral response, and IgG, which arrive later on during infection.
The Philippine General Hospital earlier issued a call for COVID-19 survivors to donate blood or plasma. Plasma from donors, who will go through thorough screening, will be used to help treat patients with severe and critical symptoms of COVID-19.
Dr. Jonas Del Rosario, PGH spokesperson, told ABS-CBN News that convalescent plasma therapy has long been used during epidemics as a way to bring in antibodies from recovered patients to those still battling the disease.
“Now we thought about this because in the past, convalescent plasma taken from a person who has recovered from an infection and contain neutralizing antibodies were found to be helpful in other pandemics,” Del Rosario said, referring to the H1N1 influenza pandemic, the 2003 SARS-CoV-1 epidemic and the 2012 MERS-COV epidemic.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has also supported the treatment, which has been used for illnesses that do not have a vaccine yet.
“You are essentially giving the new victim's immune system a boost of antibodies to hopefully get them through the very difficult phase,” Dr. Mike Ryan, head of WHO's health emergencies program, said in February.
“So it must be given at the right time, because it mops up the virus in the system, and it just gives the new patient's immune system a vital push at the time it needs it. But it has to be carefully timed and it's not always successful."
Race to find cure
US drugmaker Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. said in March it has identified hundreds of antibodies that could treat or prevent COVID-19, and was preparing to begin clinical trials.
The company will select the top 2 antibodies to develop a "cocktail" treatment and scale up its manufacturing to produce 200,000 doses per month by the end of summer in the US.
At least a dozen other drugmakers are currently working on vaccines, antivirals and other treatments to help those infected with the fast-spreading virus, with some antivirals already being used in trials.
Pfizer Inc. has also agreed to co-develop a vaccine with German drugmaker BioNTech SE as well as develop antiviral treatments that could potentially be used with Gilead Sciences Inc's antiviral called remdesivir against the coronavirus.
Johnson & Johnson and Sanofi have also teamed up with a US government agency to develop virus vaccine candidates.
Drug developer Moderna Inc, which dosed its first patient with its experimental vaccine, has made the most headway among companies engaged in coronavirus vaccine development efforts.
Stay at home
Duterte on Monday reminded the public to stay at home while waiting for an antibody treatment to be readily available in the market.
"We do not know how this will end, when. But for lack of a better way of protecting the people, that is except by asking you to go inside your houses, with my assurance that when the antibody that’s being, as said it has passed the medical tests or ‘yung clinical test nila, it’s ready to be sold by May, kung makita ko nandiyan at magkaroon tayo ng supply then I am ready to lift (the lockdown)," the president said.
"Also my fear, kung nandiyan 'yong antibody, of course the rich nations will get it first before we can."
In an effort to contain the spread of the virus, the Philippine government has placed the entire country under the state of public health emergency and the island of Luzon under lockdown.
As of Monday, the health department tallied 45 recoveries, bringing the total to 242, with 4,932 infections and 315 fatalities nationwide. -with reports from Reuters; Agence France-Presse; and Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News