A recent article by the Journal of Nuclear Medicine is one of the first published studies to examine radiation therapy to treat COVID-19 patients. Researchers in New York radiolabeled the CR3022 human antibody with Iodine-131 as a targeted agent, since this antibody binds to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The researchers concluded, “Our results confirm the potential of CR3022 as a molecularly targeted probe for SARS-CoV-2. A labeled version of CR3022 could potentially be used for Auger radiotherapy or non-invasive imaging.”

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., authored a blog on the CR3022 human antibody, stating it might hold the key to developing effective therapy against COVID-19. Collins wrote that researchers had shown CR3022 cross-reacts with the new coronavirus, though the antibody does not bind tightly enough to neutralize and cease infecting cells. Vaccine designers could potentially leverage the capabilities of how precisely the antibodies attach to the virus.

Although it seems novel, radiotherapy has been considered for treating viruses in the past. A genetically-engineered measles virus that expressed the sodium iodide symporter in infected cells was sensitive to I-125 in vitro. This halted virus replication but could not translate to an in vivo model.

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