Scientists Have Discovered An Antibody That Stops Coronavirus From Infecting Cells

Antibodies that neutralise the coronavirus could form the basis of a vaccine. Image: Kateryna Kon/Shutterstock

As the quest to develop a coronavirus vaccine continues, a team of researchers from Utrecht University have reported the discovery of an antibody that is able to attach to proteins on the surface of the virus in order to prevent it from infecting cells. Presenting their work in the journal Nature Communications, the authors explain that while the antibody in question is “fully human”, experiments have so far only been conducted using cultured cells, and more trials will be needed before we can say if this antibody is appropriate for use in a vaccine.

Given that the SARS-CoV-2 virus – which causes Covid-19 – belongs to the same group of coronaviruses as the SARS-CoV that was responsible for the SARS outbreak from 2002 to 2003, the researchers began by assessing 51 different antibodies that target this earlier strain.

“Using this collection of SARS-CoV antibodies, we identified an antibody that also neutralizes infection of SARS-CoV-2 in cultured cells,” write the study authors. Known as 47D11, the antibody prevents both viruses from infecting nearby cells by targeting proteins called trimeric spike (S) glycoproteins, which are found on the surface of both viruses.

Scientists capture the act of viral shedding, a process in which viral particles are released from a dying cell infected by SARS-CoV-2. Rocky Mountain Laboratories, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Hamilton, MT

“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,” say the researchers.

The study authors now hope to see further experiments conducted to determine if a vaccine can be developed using this antibody.

While most therapeutic antibodies are developed in other species before being adapted to make them compatible with the human immune system, 47D11 is already a human antibody, which means that any future research involving this antibody should be relatively speedy.

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