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University of Pittsburgh scientists say they have isolated a molecule that “completely and specifically neutralizes” SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

News of the breakthrough was published in the journal Cell.

The drug, called Ab8, was created by a molecule researchers say is 10 times smaller than a full-sized antibody.

Scientists say Ab8 could be used both to prevent a person from getting the virus and help clear the infection from a person who is already suffering from COVID-19.

“Ab8 not only has potential as therapy for COVID-19, but it also could be used to keep people from getting SARS-CoV-2 infections,” study co-author John Mellors, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Pitt and UPMC, said in a release from UPMC.

“Antibodies of larger size have worked against other infectious diseases and have been well-tolerated, giving us hope that it could be an effective treatment for patients with COVID-19 and for protection of those who have never had the infection and are not immune.”

The drug has been “highly effective in preventing and treating” SARS-CoV-2 infections in mice and hamsters, the study said, with results showing those mice treated with Ab8 had 10 times less of the amount of infectious virus than those mice who were not given the drug.

Scientists also said that the drug does not seem to bind to human cells. That means that the chance Ab8 would cause negative side effects in people is small.