New In: Antibody Neutralizes All COVID Variants

The COVID-19 vaccination has been successful in preventing people from falling gravely ill and dying from the virus, but different boosters have been necessary to try and stay up with all of the coronavirus variants that have emerged. Researchers have now found an antibody that blocks all COVID-19 variations that are currently known.

The SP1-77 antibody is the outcome of a partnership between Duke University and Boston Children’s Hospital researchers. They just reported the positive findings of their mouse study in the journal Science Immunology.

But what does it really mean to have an antibody that is able to neutralize every COVID-19 variant, and how will this affect vaccinations in the future? What you should know is as follows.

Describe SP1-77.

The virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, can be neutralized by SP1-77, an antibody that researchers have created. It was developed after scientists altered a mouse model used to look for broadly neutralizing antibodies to HIV, which also mutates.

The mice used in the study have human immune systems built in, simulating how our immune systems improve antibody production in response to pathogen exposure. The mice were given two human gene sequences, which caused them to produce a variety of antibodies that people might produce. After that, the mice were exposed to the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, which is what the virus uses to attach to your cells. The mice then created nine distinct antibody families that bound to the spike protein in an effort to neutralize it.

When those antibodies were put to the test, one, SP1-77, was shown to be capable of neutralizing all Omicron strains of COVID-19, including the ones that are now in circulation.

The antibody functions somewhat differently from many of the antibodies that people develop in response to immunizations. SARS-CoV-2 must first bind to ACE2 receptors in your cells before it can infect you. According to a press release from Boston Children’s Hospital, the existing COVID-19 vaccinations prevent this binding by attaching to the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the spike protein at particular locations.

While the RBD is also bound by the SP1-77 antibody, the virus is still able to connect to ACE2 receptors. What it does is prevent the virus from joining its outer membrane to the cell membrane, which is what must occur for you to become ill.

According to study co-author Tomas Kirchhausen, Ph.D., “SP1-77 binds the spike protein at a site that so far has not been mutated in any variant, and it neutralizes these variants by a novel mechanism.” These characteristics could be a factor in its extensive and powerful action.

What does this imply for COVID-19 vaccine development and medical care going forward?

Right now, it’s unclear. Although studies on the antibody are still underway, it is crucial to remember that this research was conducted in mice rather than humans.

According to Amesh A. Adalja, M.D., an infectious disease specialist and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, “this is very early-stage proof-of-concept work to illustrate that broadly neutralizing antibodies can be generated using a mouse model.” Such research could serve as the foundation for new monoclonal antibody products as well as a vaccine, if it were replicated and expanded.

A vaccine that could eliminate all COVID-19 variations, according to experts, would unquestionably be appreciated. Thomas Russo, M.D., professor and director of infectious diseases at the University at Buffalo in New York, says, “We’d love to have a vaccine that is active against all circulating variants, including those yet to come.” It is the vaccination industry’s holy grail.

According to Dr. Russo, depending on how long the COVID-19 vaccine’s protection lasted, you might only need to get a COVID-19 shot or booster once a year or even less frequently.

The SP1-77 antibody and mouse model used to make it have both been submitted for patent protection, and if everything goes according to plan, the researchers hope to develop something that the general public can use.

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