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Infectious Diseases

Nine Antibodies Found to have ‘Exquisite Potency’ Against Sars-CoV-2

Posted on 23 July 2020

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A cocktail of antibodies identified in Covid patients with severe disease could be mass produced to help treat and protect against the virus. These antibodies could be engineered to persist in the blood for up to 6 months.

In research published in Nature, Scientists at Columbia University identified 61 antibodies from five individuals that effectively wiped out coronavirus. Nine of these displayed “exquisite potency” for neutralising the virus. These antibodies were able to protect hamsters against the disease and may be similarly effective in humans, as Professor David Ho, who led the research, explains:

It shut off infectious virus completely in the lung tissue of the hamsters we treated. We specifically isolated very potent antibodies that can be mass produced and then administered. We would assume that these could be used to prevent or treat Sars-Cov-2. We’d be looking to treat early in the course of infection, particularly those at risk of developing severe disease such as the elderly and those with underlying illness.

In terms of prevention, these could certainly substitute for vaccines, and again we’d be looking at the most vulnerable, for example, nursing home residents.

Antibodies are proteins produced by B cells during an infection. They are able to neutralise viruses by binding to proteins on their surface, hindering their ability to invade human cells and helping white cells to recognise and destroy them. The most potent antibodies in this study targeted regions of the coronavirus spike protein.

Test detects antibodies to spike protein – a key protein - Siemens ...
Antibodies can bind to the coronavirus spike protein, physically blocking its interaction with the ACE2 receptor on human cells.

Researchers hope to begin phase 1 human trials of a cocktail of these antibodies in October. Using a mix of different antibodies makes it much less likely that the virus will evolve resistance to the treatment.

Coronavirus vaccine development continues apace, but there is still a lot of uncertainty over how effective they will be. Immunisation might not last very long and protection may only be partial, especially among the elderly. In this scenario, infusions of lab-grown antibodies would still be useful.

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