Decades before the terms “COVID-19” or “novel coronavirus” started dominating headlines around the world, there was SARS, aka severe acute respiratory syndrome, an illness caused by coronavirus. The condition was first reported in China in 2002 and spread around the world within a few months. Luckily, it was contained pretty quickly, and no known transmissions have occurred since 2004. However, if you are one of the 8,098 people worldwide who became infected with the virus, you may have immunity against coronavirus, according to a new study published in the medical journal Nature.
May Have Antibodies That Fight Coronavirus
In the paper, researchers San Francisco’s Vir Biotechnology and the University of Washington, explain that when examining old blood samples from an individual who had been infected with SARS coronavirus in 2003, they discovered an antibody—S309—in the blood of a person that effectively blocked SARS-CoV-2. When they attempted to isolate the antibody and then add the virus, SARS-CoV-2 wasn’t able to enter cells and replicate. While scientists assumed that the antibodies would have some commonalities, since the two viruses are closely related, they were surprised to find how potent the SARS antibodies actually were. The team is still trying to figure out why S309 effectively blocks the virus.
“Looking for effective antibodies is like looking for a needle in a haystack,” David Veesler, a senior author on the paper and a virologist at the University of Washington, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “So this was very, very exciting because this antibody has the potential to have a high public health impact.”
May Lead to COVID-19 Treatment
Using this information, Vir Biotechnology is in the process of starting clinical trials on two coronavirus treatments utilizing SARS antibodies.
“Remarkably, we believe S309 likely covers the entire family of related coronaviruses, which suggests that, even as SARS-CoV-2 continues to evolve, it may be quite challenging for it to become resistant to the neutralizing activity of S309,” Herbert “Skip” Virgin, M.D., Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer, Vir, explained in an accompanying press release.
“In addition, S309 exhibits potent effector function in vitro, potentially allowing the antibody to engage and recruit the rest of the immune system to kill off already infected cells. We have seen in animal models of other respiratory infections, such as influenza, that effector function significantly enhances the activity of antibodies that are already potently neutralizing.”