Israeli scientists say they have identified antibodies that are so potent at neutralizing the coronavirus they could eliminate the need for more vaccine boosters.
A research team from Tel Aviv University experimented with numerous antibodies and found that two in particular neutralized all known strains of the coronavirus, including Delta and Omicron, in the laboratory.
Antibody infusions are already being used to treat some coronavirus patients, and microbiologist Dr Natalia Freund, who led the new study, said the antibodies she identified could be used to concoct a particularly potent infusion.
Based on their performance under laboratory conditions, the antibodies could provide the extra protection that comes today from booster shots, she said, adding that it could potentially make extra shots unnecessary in vaccinated people. .
“COVID-19 infection can cause severe illness, and we know that delivering antibodies within the first few days of infection can stop the spread of the virus,” Freund said.
“So it’s possible that by using effective antibody therapy, we don’t have to provide booster doses to the whole population every time there’s a new variant,” he said. she adds.
According to Freund, technically the reason for the success of both antibodies appears to be that they bind to a different part of the coronavirus spike protein than most.
Together with doctoral students Michael Mor and Ruofan Lee, she sequenced all immune system B cells from the blood of people who had recovered from the original strain of COVID in Israel, and isolated nine antibodies produced by the patients.
Now the top two antibodies have been tested against a range of variants and worked well against all of them.
“According to our findings, the efficiency of the first antibody, TAU-1109, to neutralize the Omicron strain is 92% and to neutralize the Delta strain, 90%,” Freund said.
“The second antibody, TAU-2310, neutralizes the Omicron variant with 84% efficiency and the Delta variant with 97% efficiency,” she added.
The antibodies are named TAU because they were identified at Tel Aviv University.
To ensure his lab work was done correctly, Freund sent the antibodies to be tested for effectiveness against live viruses in lab cultures at the University of California, San Diego, and for further testing at the Faculty of Medicine at Bar-Ilan University in the Galilee. These studies supported his findings.
Freund said antibodies clearly offer strong protection, as they prevent infection right after recovery – but then they wane and immunity wanes. In her view, it makes sense to invest in artificial antibody stimulation, and she hopes to do just that with the antibodies she has identified.
“For reasons that we don’t yet fully understand, the level of antibodies against COVID-19 drops dramatically after three months,” she explained. “That’s why we see people getting infected again and again, even after being vaccinated three times.
“COVID-19 infection can cause severe illness, and we know that providing antibodies in the first days after infection can stop the spread of the virus. So it’s possible that by using effective antibody therapy, we don’t have to provide booster doses to the whole population every time there’s a new variant.