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Argentina starts trials on hyperimmune equine serum to treat COVID-19


The serum is obtained by injecting a SARS-CoV-2 protein, which triggers an immune response in the animal’s body that generates a large amount of neutralising antibodies. Plasma is then extracted and used to treat people testing positive for COVID-19, stopping them from becoming ill: in short, this is the idea of a group of Argentine medical researchers. The news has been circulating now for several weeks, but only in recent days there is more talk about it.
In fact, on 25 July, a note posted on the website of the Argentine Government explained how and why the National University of San Martín, Inmunova and other institutions are developing an equine serum that should neutralise the virus.
Fernando Goldbaum, director of the Center for Redesign and Protein Engineering at the National University of San Martin (CRIP, UNSAM) and founding partner of the biotech company INMUNOVA, explained: “The virus enters the cell via a protein that acts as a key.We take a piece of this protein and inoculate the horse with it: the animal produces a large amount of antibodies which bind to the protein and prevent the virus from entering the cells”.
A similar procedure can be used for human plasma, but according to researchers the hyperimmune equine serum is much more powerful and can be produced on a large scale.“On the one hand, because horses have six to seven times more blood volume than humans (an adult person has 5 to 6 litres, while an equine 35 to 40 litres) and, on the other, because horses are hyperimmunised, i.e. they receive large amounts of antigens and this process generates a huge number of antibodies which are 20 to 100 times more powerful than those produced by patients during a natural infection", Goldbaum says.

The website of the Argentine Government shows that these procedures are nothing new and have been used for decades for treatments against poisoning and other virus infections.
Pharmaceutical companies are already "recruiting" horses from breeders, preparing to use an unspecified but certainly high number of horses, as they expect a "huge demand" for serum in the future.

"Once again we are shocked to hear that animals are used in experiments to fight viruses dangerous to humans - says Sonny Richichi, IHP President - Although it is known to the scientific world that epidemics and pandemics are facilitated above all by the exploitation and the slaughter of animals for food supply, no government is adopting serious policies to combat or even stop intensive breeding, drug abuse and incorrect and dangerous eating behaviours. Meanwhile, animals continue to suffer the added consequences, through exploitation in other forms.

Immunova explains that horses do not undergo blood extraction but only plasmapheresis, implying that this process is not as invasive.
"We do not trust the Argentine government, which for years has allowed the existence of shameful blood farms that cause terrible suffering to thousands of pregnant mares, whose blood is drawn for production of the fertility hormone PMSG - continues Richichi - This hormone is imported to Europe and used to boost profits in the industry linked to intensive breeding, especially pigs, where mothers are induced to more frequent fertility cycles (and consequently births)".


Article on the website of the Argentine Government

Service by CNN Espana

Investigation on blood farms in Argentina and Uruguay


(photo from CNN Espana)