US scientists have spotted a new antibody capable of neutralizing not only different strains of SARS-CoV-2 but also other types of coronavirus, according to Nature journal. A discovery that could help humanity protect itself against new viral mutations.
A group of American researchers, led by biochemist Tyler Starr of the Fred Hutchinson cancer research center (FHCRC) in Seattle, has identified a new antibody with extremely powerful capacities to fight against a wide range of coronavirus variants simultaneously, informed this Wednesday, July 14 one of the oldest scientific journals in the United Kingdom: Nature.
Experts from the FHCRC and the US company Vir Biotechnology, which participated in the study, examined 12 antibodies isolated from people infected with SARS-CoV-2 or another virus in the SARS-CoV group. These antibodies latch onto a viral protein fragment that binds to receptors on human cells. Many antibody therapies against Covid-19 target the same receptor-binding domain, the British weekly reported.
The researchers compiled a list of thousands of mutations in the binding domains of several strains of SARS-CoV-2 to also catalog variations of other coronaviruses belonging, like Covid-19, to the sarbecovirus subgenus.
According to Nature, after evaluating the effects of these mutations on the abilities of the 12 antibodies to latch onto the viruses’ binding domains, the panel found that one antibody, S2H97, stood out for its ability to latch onto the binding domains of all the sarbecoviruses tested.
S2H97, which the study authors dubbed a pan-sarbecovirus antibody, blocked a wide range of viral strains from spreading to cells growing in the lab.
This “super” antibody proved powerful enough to protect hamsters from Covid-19.
The secret to the S2H97 antibody’s effectiveness lies in its molecular structure to attack previously invisible sections of the receptor-binding domain, which the scientists found tend to remain unchanged as the virus mutates, the journal explained. “It’s the coolest antibody we’ve described,” said study leader Tyler Starr as quoted by Nature.
“super” antiviral vaccine soon?
The researchers noted that the phenomenon of molecules that target the sections of the viral binding domain revealed during the study could promote the development of pan-sarbecovirus vaccines to protect simultaneously against several viruses, reports the scientific journal.
The discovery of an antibody capable of clinging to different sarbecoviruses has been hailed by other scientists, including Arinjay Banerjee, a virologist at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, according to Nature. Having mentioned future viral mutations, still unknown to researchers, the Canadian expert expressed the certainty that pan-sarbecovirus antibodies and vaccines would help humanity to better prepare for attacks by new viruses.