SARS antibody shows vulnerability in novel coronavirus

Scripps Research reported yesterday on their site about a new in-house study showing a human SARS antibody’s interaction with the new coronavirus at near-atomic-scale resolution. The study reveals a possible weakness in the coronavirus which might show researchers pathways to new therapeutics.

The Scripps researchers were working with an anti-SARS-CoV antibody* called CR3022 that was originally isolated in 2006 by the pharmaceutical company Crucell Holland B.V. in the Netherlands. Earlier this year Chinese scientists indicated that CR3022 cross-reacts against SARS-CoV-2 (the novel coronavirus which causes COVID-19).

CR3022 antibody from a SARS patient. It also binds to the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19. (Image courtesy of Meng Yuan and Nicholas Wu, Scripps Wilson lab.)

Using high-resolution diffraction techniques, the scientists found a nearly identical site on both coronaviruses to which the antibody binds, suggesting a functionally important and vulnerable site for this family of coronaviruses.

This is not a cure, only a possible pathway. This antibody is not able to neutralize SARS-CoV-2 in lab dish tests as it does SARS-CoV.

However, the work suggests that antibodies may be able to neutralize the virus, and if they could be found and developed into therapies, they could treat COVID-19 patients and provide temporary protection from the virus to uninfected individuals, for example healthcare workers.

There may also be antibodies (not yet discovered) which can effectively neutralize both viruses and future emergent coronaviruses before they can cause pandemics.

*Health science refresher: an antibody is a protein produced by a patient’s immune system. The antibody binds to an invading foreign body like a virus or bacterium, and helps the immune system identify and destroy the invader.

Featured image photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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