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UB working on medication to prevent COVID-19 in close contacts

University at Buffalo

University at Buffalo researchers are working on a national study of a medication to protect the health of peoplewho come in close contact with someone with COVID-19.

Working with Big Pharma company Regeneron, scientists want 2,000 local residents to agree to a research study in which 50% get the new drug and the other half don't. Researchers won't know who is getting which.

The idea is that if someone is found positive for the virus, the researchers have 96 hours to persuade close associates or family members to agree to potentially be treated with monoclonal antibodies to see if they help block the virus in the others.

UB Professor of Medicine Dr. Sanjay Sethi said timing is tight.

"Most people who develop COVID after an exposure will develop it within seven days, usually, but we'll follow people and see what happens with them," Sethi said. "They are doing periodic looks at the data to see if there is a strong signal of benefit."

Sethi said the research study is taking volunteers, but to produce good research, there have to be many minority residents participating.

"We all know that, unfortunately, the minorities have been affected in a very unequal way, more affected by COVID than others," he said, "and there is the need to enroll individuals from under-represented groups."

The ranks of first responders and health care personnel include large numbers of minorities, many of whom have become sick or died. The antibody will be administered in four shots, just under the skin, given at the same time.

"When you prevent COVID from getting established or COVID has already gotten into your nose and has already started there, the virus is already there, can you attenuate, can you make your illness minor by giving the antibodies and prevent the virus from multiplying further?" Sethi said.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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