New research has identified an antibody that may be effective in treating and preventing coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19).
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A new study has identified an antibody that may be valuable in responding to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The antibody has the potential to help treat the disease, as well as to reduce the chances of contracting the infection that causes it.
The research has been published in the journal Nature Communications, and it was led by scientists from three institutions in the Netherlands: Utrecht University, the Erasmus Medical Center, and the pharmaceutical company Harbour BioMed.
Since the emergence of the virus that causes COVID-19 — called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) — and the rapid spread of the disease throughout the world, scientists have been researching ways to fight back.
While much attention has focused on the creation of a vaccine that would enable the body to develop its own antibodies to the virus, researchers have also been working to develop the antibodies themselves, which could then be injected to help people combat the infection.
Previous research has shown that antibodies can help treat illnesses caused by similar viruses, so a SARS-CoV-2 antibody may help inhibit the infection until a vaccine is developed.
Generally, antibodies work by stopping a virus from infecting the cells of a host organism. According to the present study, the newly identified antibody stops SARS-CoV-2 from infecting cells by targeting the spike proteins on the virus’ surface that allow it to gain access to the cells of the host.
Antibodies are usually developed in nonhuman species. Researchers then take steps to make them effective within humans. However, the team has developed the new antibodies in a way that will not require “humanizing” them first.
While translating these findings into an effective COVID-19 treatment will require more research and testing, the initial discovery is valuable.
According to co-supervising study author Prof. Frank Grosveld, “This discovery provides a strong foundation for additional research to characterize this antibody and begin development as a potential COVID-19 treatment.”
“The antibody used in this work is ‘fully human,’ allowing development to proceed more rapidly and reducing the potential for immune-related side effects.”
Previously, the researchers had studied the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, in 2002–2003. The coronavirus responsible for this disease has many similarities to SARS-CoV-2, so the scientists were able to build on their earlier research as they worked to identify a SARS-CoV-2 antibody.
According to the study’s other co-supervising author, Berend-Jan Bosch, Ph.D., “Using this collection of SARS-CoV antibodies, we identified an antibody that also neutralizes infection of SARS-CoV-2 in cultured cells.”
“Such a neutralizing antibody has potential to alter the course of infection in the infected host, support virus clearance, or protect an uninfected individual that is exposed to the virus.”
Because the antibody is able to neutralize both SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2, it may also be valuable for treating similar coronaviruses that may emerge in the future.
For Bosch, “This cross-neutralizing feature of the antibody is very interesting and suggests it may have potential in mitigation of diseases caused by future-emerging, related coronaviruses.”
Dr. Jingsong Wang, the founder and CEO of Harbour BioMed, acknowledges: “This is groundbreaking research. Much more work is needed to assess whether this antibody can protect or reduce the severity of disease in humans.”
“We expect to advance development of the antibody with partners. We believe our technology can contribute to addressing this most urgent public health need, and we are pursuing several other research avenues.”
– Dr. Jingsong Wang
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