Scientists have identified an antibody that can protect people from COVID-19, its variants and other types of coronaviruses.
The antibody, DH1047, works by binding to the virus’s cells and neutralizing them, preventing them from replicating.
It is effective at both preventing infection and at helping treat a person that has already contracted Covid.
The research team at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill (UNC) and Duke University, in Durham, says it believes it has found a key piece that can help combat the current pandemic and future virus outbreaks.
Researchers have discovered an antibody that is not only just effective against Covid, but against all types of coronaviruses that could have future outbreaks among humans. Pictured: A microscope image of a COVID-19 infected cell
The antibody, DH1047, showed the ability to 100% neutralize the virus cells of COVID-19, SARS and other coronaviruses that are found in animals
For comparison, two other antibodies the researchers tested were found to be effective against some, but not all, types of the coronavirus that can infect both animals and humans. The antibody DH1235 (left) was found to be effective against some viruses, while DH1073 (right) was only effective against SARS (orange)
‘This antibody has the potential to be a therapeutic for the current epidemic,’ Dr Barton Haynes, director of Duke Human Vaccine Institute and co-author of the study, said in a statement.
‘It could also be available for future outbreaks, if or when other coronaviruses jump from their natural animal hosts to humans.’
Researchers, who published their findings on November 2 in the Science Translational Medicine journal, identified more than 1,700 coronavirus antibodies.
Of that pool, 50 were identified that could bind to both Covid and SARS – the virus that caused an outbreak in Asia in the early 2000s – cells.
One, named DH1047, was particularly effective, being able to bind to all kinds of viruses, both animal- and human-based.
‘This antibody binds to the coronavirus at a location that is conserved across numerous mutations and variations,’ Haynes said.
‘As a result, it can neutralize a wide range of coronaviruses.’
The antibody was tested in mice, and found to be able to protect the rodents from developing a Covid infection after being exposed to the virus.
It was effective against all types of strains as well, including the highly contagious Delta variant.
Other types of coronaviruses that are believed to have the future potential of infecting humans were also tested, and were neutralized by the antibody.
‘The findings provide a template for the rational design of universal vaccine strategies that are variant-proof and provide broad protection from known and emerging coronaviruses,’ said Dr Ralph Baric, a professor of epidemiology at UNC and co-senior author of the research.
When testing the antibody on animals that were already infected, they found that it was effective at reducing the severity of symptoms related to the lungs.
‘The therapeutic activity even after mice were infected suggests that this could be a treatment deployed in the current pandemic, but also stockpiled to prevent the spread of a future outbreak or epidemic with a SARS-related virus,’ Dr David Martinez, co-lead author and a researcher at UNC, said in a statement.
Currently, monoclonal antibody treatments are considered to be among the most effective at treating Covid.
The treatment pumps a person’s body with Covid antibodies that assist the immune system in neutralizing virus cells and preventing them from replicating.
This treatment is especially valuable for unvaccinated people, who do not have the antibodies necessary to stave off infection or severe hospitalization.
Incorporating this newly discovered antibody into the future of treatment development for coronavirus related diseases could make them much more effective.
While it may be already too late for this pandemic, researchers hope their findings will be crucial to fighting the next virus outbreak that strikes the world.