(CTN News) – A groundbreaking study published in the peer-reviewed Science Advances journal reveals an exciting breakthrough in the fight against COVID-19.
An international team of researchers, led by Duke-NUS Medical School, discovered newly isolated antibodies capable of neutralizing virtually all known variants of COVID-19 and other related coronaviruses.
The researchers obtained six potent antibodies from a recovered SARS patient who had also been vaccinated against COVID-19. This unique combination of prior coronavirus infection and vaccination resulted in an “extremely broad and powerful” antibody response.
The antibodies demonstrated the ability to halt nearly all tested SARS-related viruses, including COVID-19 variants Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and the emerging Omicron variant, along with several animal coronaviruses transmitted from bats and pangolins.
Among the antibodies, E7 stood out as the most powerful, effectively neutralizing SARS, COVID-19, animal sarbecoviruses, and even the newest Omicron subvariants. E7 targets a specific region of the coronavirus’ spike protein, obstructing the shape-shifting process required for the virus to infect cells and cause illness.
The significance of this discovery lies in its potential to pave the way for universal coronavirus vaccines. By “educating” the human immune system in the right way, pan-coronavirus vaccines could be developed to protect against not only current COVID-19 variants but also future coronavirus threats.
Senior author Wang Linfa, a professor and bat virus expert with Duke-NUS’ Emerging Infectious Diseases Programme, expressed optimism about the findings, stating that the induction of broad sarbecovirus-neutralizing antibodies is achievable with the right immunogenic sequence and delivery method. This discovery brings hope that a universal coronavirus vaccine design is within reach.
The researchers are now planning to further assess the E7 antibody’s potential against existing and future coronaviruses. This collaborative effort has expanded our capabilities in safeguarding against coronavirus threats that currently pose risks to human health and those that may emerge in the future.
Patrick Tan, senior vice-dean for research and professor at Duke-NUS Medical School, emphasizes the pivotal role of basic science research in advancing knowledge and discovering new approaches to transform medicine and improve lives.
In conclusion, this groundbreaking study offers a glimmer of hope in the ongoing battle against COVID-19 and potential future coronavirus outbreaks. The powerful neutralizing antibodies provide a solid foundation for designing effective vaccines and drugs to combat existing variants and prepare for any new viral challenges that may arise.