COVID-19 Antibody May Help in Search for Broad-Acting Vaccine

Antibodies produced by memory B cells remembering an older infection could help develop new therapies.

A recent study conducted by investigators from the Scripps Research Institute has discovered a cross-reactive coronavirus antibody that may aid in creating a vaccine or antibody treatment that could potentially work against all or most coronaviruses.

Results from the study were published in the journal Nature Communications.

“The study highlights how important it is to fully understand the nature of preexisting immunity, especially in regard to coronaviruses," Ge Song, a graduate student who worked on the study said. "Earlier exposure to a coronavirus, even a benign virus that causes colds, impacts the nature and level of antibodies produced when more serious coronavirus threats emerge."

For the study, the team of investigators collected blood samples from before the pandemic and compared them with people who had become infected with COVID-19. After analyzing the samples, they were able to pinpoint cross-reactive antibodies that reacted with COVID-19 and more benign coronaviruses.

Findings from the study demonstrated that the cross-reactive antibody was most likely produced by a memory B cell that has been exposed to a previous coronavirus, like the one that causes the common cold.

The memory B cell is able to remember the initial disease and can produce targeted antibodies for the new infection.

The investigators believe that this discovery can potentially play an important role in developing a broad-acting therapy which could protect against other coronaviruses.

"Another deadly coronavirus will likely emerge again in the future--and when it does, we want to be better prepared," Dennis Burton, a professor who works close with the laboratory who conducted the study said. "Our identification of a cross-reactive antibody against SARS-CoV-2 and the more common coronaviruses is a promising development on the way to a broad-acting vaccine or therapy.”