Antibody to the common cold could neutralize COVID-19 and could lead to vaccine that protects against all coronaviruses, new study suggests
- A new study compared blood samples collected before the pandemic with those from people infected with COVID-19
- Levels of an antibody generated by immune system cells called memory B cells were higher in the samples from the COVID-19 survivors
- These antibodies circulate in the bloodstream for years and ‘remember’ illnesses and are switched back on when the threat returns
- Researchers say the findings could help scientists develop a vaccine or antibody treatment that protects against all coronaviruses
An antibody that develops after people catch a cold could neutralize the virus that causes COVID-19, a new study suggests.
Both the common cold and SARS-CoV-2 fall under a family known as coronaviruses, which cause upper respiratory illness.
However, antibodies that respond to common coronaviruses were believed not to work against the virus leading to Covid.
But in blood samples from Covid survivors, researchers found high levels of immune cells generated during the common cold that “remember” illnesses and are called back into action when the threat returns.
The team at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., say the findings could help scientists develop a vaccine or antibody treatment that protects against all coronaviruses.
A new study suggests that antibodies that develop after people catch a cold can neutralize the virus that causes COVID-19. Pictured: A person receives a COVID-19 test outside The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York City, May 2021
Levels of an antibody generated by cells of the immune system called memory B cells were higher in the samples from the COVID-19 survivors (left) than in those never infected (right)
The team found that the antibody is produced by a type of immune system cell known as a memory B cell.
Memory B cells lock onto the surface of invading pathogens and mark them for destruction by other immune cells.
They can also circulate in the bloodstream for years — even decades — and the immune system can summon them when there’s a new infection.
For the study, published in the journal nature communication, the team looked at blood samples from participants before the pandemic and during the pandemic.
“By examining blood samples collected before the pandemic and comparing them to samples from people who had been sick with COVID-19, we were able to pinpoint antibody types that cross-reacted with benign coronaviruses and SARS-CoV-2,” senior author Dr. . Raiees Andrabi, a researcher in Scripps’ Department of Immunology and Microbiology, said: News Medical.
The results showed that levels of memory B cell antibodies were higher in blood samples from people infected with COVID-19 than those who had never been.
The team says this suggests that exposure to a non-serious coronavirus could boost antibody production when infected with a more severe coronavirus.
Tests also showed that the antibody also neutralized SARS-CoV-1, the coronavirus that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and a cousin of COVID-19.
“We were able to determine that this type of cross-reactive antibody is likely produced by a memory B cell initially exposed to a coronavirus that causes the common cold and then recalled during a COVID-19 infection,” Andrabi told News Medical.
Next, researchers examined how the antibody could neutralize different types of coronaviruses.
They found that the antibody binds to the base of the spike protein (S protein) on coronaviruses, which they use to penetrate and infect our cells.
Co-author Dr. Dennis Burton, Char of Scripps’ Department of Immunology and Microbiology, said the discovery is important in understanding how we can protect ourselves against future coronaviruses.
“A deadly coronavirus is likely to resurface in the future — and if it does, we want to be better prepared,” Burton told News Medical.
“Our identification of a cross-reactive antibody against SARS-CoV-2 and the more common coronaviruses is a promising development towards a broad-spectrum vaccine or therapy.”