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SARS-CoV-2 Reacts to 2003 SARS Virus Antibodies

The findings may have important implications on vaccine research and development.

Investigators from the Oregon Health & Science University have discovered that antibodies generated from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) react to strains from other coronaviruses, including those from the SARS outbreak that occurred in 2003. The study was published in the journal Cell Reports.

"Our finding has some important implications concerning immunity toward different strains of coronavirus infections, especially as these viruses continue to mutate," Tafesse said.

The investigators were not surprised to see that antibodies generated from a virus from almost 2 decades ago provided a defense, however small it was, due to the fact that estimated mutations occur 1 to 2 times per month. They indicated that further research needs to be done to determine the lasting efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines.

"I don't think there is any one size-fits-all vaccine," Fikadu Tafesse, senior author on the study and assistant professor of molecular biology and immunology at the OHSU School of Medicine said. "Although the vaccines coming out now may break the momentum of the virus and end the pandemic, they may not be the end game."

Additional findings from the study may suggest that since antibodies in the blood can potentially react to those of other strains of coronaviruses, that the efforts to accurately discern a previous COVID-19 infection may be more difficult. While this may complicate the diagnosis of the disease, knowing how the SARS-CoV-2 virus reacts to antibodies of multiple strains may actually afford the expansion of abilities to study its underlying biology and causal effects.

"I'm not personally terribly concerned. Emerging mutant viruses may have some propensity to escape certain antibodies raised by previous infection or vaccine,” Timothy Bates, lead author on the study said. "Every individual has a different immune system that will make a unique repertoire of different antibodies that bind to different places on the virus, so the chance of any one SARS-CoV-2 variant escaping from all of them is quite low."