A Tel Aviv University (TAU) research team has found two antibodies that can neutralize Covid-19 with such effectiveness that additional vaccinations may soon be unnecessary.
Of the pair, TAU-1109 (named for the university) neutralizes Omicron, the latest variant, with 92% effectiveness and its immediate predecessor, Delta, with an efficacy of 90%. TAU-2310 nullifies Delta with 97% success and Omicron to an 84% level.
According to lead researcher Dr. Natalia Freund of the Molecular Microbiology and Biotechnology Department in TAU’s Sackler School of Medicine, the antibodies work against all the Covid variants. With such a weapon in hand when people get infected, she hopes, “We will not have to provide booster doses to the entire population every time there is a new variant.”
Like untold numbers of medical professionals around the world, Freund, together with doctoral students Michael Mor and Ruofan Lee, have been working on ways to combat the pandemic ever since it broke out at the beginning of 2020.
The team examined antibodies from patients who had recovered from the virus and found several that were particularly effective – those that bind the ACE2 receptor of the spike protein of the coronavirus.
Patients began receiving infusions of these antibodies to help lessen the severity of their infections from the original strain – until the virus started evolving.
“When the other variants of the coronavirus arrived…they made most of those antibodies useless,” Freund explained.
What Freund and her team discovered is that two of the antibodies, which hadn’t worked very well against the original strain, were highly effective against later variants.
The reason? While the newer strains had variations of the spike protein tied to the ACE2 receptor, the two special antibodies bind to a different part of the protein.
“This area seemingly does not undergo many mutations,” she said, “so they are effective in neutralizing all the variants we checked, and in practice, neutralizing all the Corona variants known until today.”
The team sent TAU-1109 and TAU-2310 to be tested against live strains of the virus in labs in the University of California, and against pseudo-strains in Bar Ilan University labs, and both replicated the success rate that her team had achieved.
“In our opinion, spot treatment with antibodies and supplying the body with them in high concentrations can serve as an effective substitute for vaccines, especially for at-risk populations and people with a weakened immune system,” she added. “Corona infection can cause serious illness, and we know that giving antibodies in the first days after infection can stop the spread of the virus.”
(The research was published in the August edition of the peer-reviewed journal, Communications Biology)