COVID: Scientists Find Super Antibody That Could Help Fight New Variants

A specific antibody identified in the blood of an individual infected with the original SARS in the early 2000s and of a patient with COVID-19 appears to be effective against a variety of coronaviruses and could help fight future variants of COVID, a new study by scientists at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have found.

The study was published in the Science Translational Medicine last week’s diary.

“This antibody has the potential to be therapeutic for the current epidemic,” said Dr. Barton Haynes, director of the Duke Institute for Human Vaccines, a co-lead author of the research. “It could also be available for future outbreaks, if or when other coronaviruses jump from their natural animal hosts to humans.”

In 2003, an illness caused by a strain of coronavirus that became known as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) spread in China and four other countries. Many warned that it could trigger a global pandemic that would bring the world to its knees, but back then, the disease was mostly contained with only a few thousand people becoming infected.

Almost twenty years later, the apocalyptic scenario feared by SARS came true with a new coronavirus pandemic, the virus of which was named COVID-19 (since it was first identified in 2019).

3D printing of the HIV surface protein gp120. An antibody is also attached on top (green and blue). When antibodies adhere to viruses, they can prevent or limit infection of host cells. (credit: NIH)

The Duke and Chapel Hill researchers identified about 1,700 antibodies in the blood of the two patients.

Of these, about 50 of them were effective against both SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2, the strain that causes COVID-19.

“This antibody binds to the coronavirus in a location that is conserved through numerous mutations and variations,” Haynes said. “As a result, it can neutralize a wide range of coronaviruses.”

When administered to mice, the antibody helped ward off general infection and severe symptoms, protecting the animals against the Delta variant and many other strains of the virus.

“The findings provide a template for the rational design of universal vaccine strategies that are variant-proof and provide broad protection against known and emerging coronaviruses,” said UNC professor Ralph S. Baric, who tested the antibody in mice.

Scientists hope that the study can open a new way to prevent and treat, not only new variants or waves of the current pandemic, but also future ones.

“This antibody could be exploited to perhaps prevent SARS-CoV-3 or SARS-CoV-4,” said Dr. David Martinez of the UNC, another co-author of the study.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *