Scientists find antibodies that neutralize known strains of Covid

Researchers at Tel Aviv University reported that they found two antibodies that neutralize all known strains of Covid-19 with up to 95% efficiency.The research, which was led by Dr. Natalia Freund and doctoral students Michael Mor and Ruofan Lee of the Department of Clinical Microbiology and Immunology at Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine, found that targeted treatment with the antibodies will strengthen the immune systems of people at risk and could serve as an effective substitute for vaccines.

monoclonal antibodies
Credit: Design Cells/SPL

By using antibody treatment, there is a possibility that the need to provide repeated booster shots to the entire population every time a new variant emerges will be eliminated, the researchers said.

The study, published in August 2022 in Communications Biology, was conducted in collaboration with Dr. Ben Croker of the University of California at San Diego.

“In the current study, we proved that two other antibodies named TAU-1109 and TAU-2310 that bind the viral spike protein in a different area from the region where most of the antibodies were concentrated until now (and were thus less effective in neutralizing the original strain) are actually very effective in neutralizing the Delta and Omicron variants," Freund said.

“According to our findings, the effectiveness of the first antibody, TAU-1109, in neutralizing the Omicron strain is 92% and in neutralizing the Delta strain it is 90%. The second antibody, TAU-2310, neutralizes the Omicron variant with an efficacy of 84%, and the Delta variant with an efficacy of 97%.”

Freund said she believes the antibodies could be revolutionary in the fight against Covid: “We need to look at the Covid-19 pandemic in the context of previous disease outbreaks that humankind has witnessed. People who were vaccinated against smallpox at birth and who today are 50 years old still have antibodies, so they are probably protected, at least partially, from the monkeypox virus that we have recently been hearing about. Unfortunately, this is not the case with the coronavirus.”

For reasons still not fully understood, the researchers said, the level of antibodies against Covid declines significantly after three months, which is why people are repeatedly infected, even after being vaccinated three times.

“In our view, targeted treatment with antibodies and their delivery to the body in high concentrations can serve as an effective substitute for repeated boosters, especially for at-risk populations and those with weakened immune systems. COVID-19 infection can cause serious illness, and we know that providing antibodies in the first days following infection can stop the spread of the virus.

“It is, therefore, possible that by using effective antibody treatment, we will not have to provide booster doses to the entire population every time there is a new variant,” Freund concluded.

Natural Immunity Is Key

This is encouraging, though not exactly surprising considering what’s known about natural immunity — the type earned by recovering from infection. A 2022 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) is just one example of research showing natural COVID-19 immunity is not only effective but lasts longer than the immunity that’s acquired from COVID-19 shots.

What’s more, prior COVID-19 infection — i.e., natural immunity — offered better protection against symptomatic omicron infection more than one year later than three doses of COVID-19 shots did after one month.

To put it into numbers, a graph in the New England Journal of Medicine (above) shows that previous infection was 54.9% effective against symptomatic omicron infection after more than 12 months, while three doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 shot were only 44.7% effective a month later. The same held true for three doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 shot, which were only 41.2 % effective after one month, compared to 53.5% effectiveness for natural immunity more than a year later.

Another one of the most talked-about reports showing the superiority of natural immunity involved data presented July 13, 2021, to the Israeli Health Ministry, which revealed that, of more than 7,700 COVID-19 cases reported, only 72 occurred in people who had previously had COVID-19 — a rate of less than 1%. In contrast, more than 3,000 cases — or approximately 40% — occurred in people who had received a COVID-19 shot.

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