SARS antibodies can block COVID-19 infection, new study finds
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SARS antibodies can block COVID-19 infection, new study finds

Research published in Nature identifies 8 antibodies that can bind to coronavirus, blocking its spread, with one candidate showing ‘particularly strong neutralizing activity’

A syringe injects an illustrated representation of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in Paris, on May 18, 2020. (JOEL SAGET/AFP)
A syringe injects an illustrated representation of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in Paris, on May 18, 2020. (JOEL SAGET/AFP)

PARIS, France — An antibody from a patient who recovered from SARS has been shown to block COVID-19 infection in a laboratory setting, researchers said Monday, in another potential breakthrough in the search for coronavirus treatment.

Scientists based in Switzerland and the United States had previously isolated the antibodies from the patient in 2003, following the SARS outbreak that killed 774 people.

They experimented with 25 different types of antibodies that target specific protein spikes on viruses to see if they could prevent cells from becoming infected with COVID-19.

Both SARS and the pathogen that causes COVID-19 are coronaviruses, thought to have come from animals, so their structures are similar.

The researchers identified eight antibodies that could bind to both COVID-19 and the infected cells.

One candidate, known as S309, was shown to have “particularly strong neutralizing activity” against COVID-19.

By combining S309 with other less potent antibodies they were able to target different sites on the virus’s protein spike, thus reducing its potential to mutate.

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen hundreds of trials for effective treatment launched, including some involving the use of antibodies from recovered patients.

While there were no experiments on humans in the study, published in the journal Nature, its authors said their findings represent “proof-of-concept” that antibodies from SARS can prevent severe COVID-19 infection and spread.

“These results pave the way for using S309- and S309-containing antibody cocktails for prophylaxis in individuals at high risk of exposure or as a post-exposure therapy to limit or treat severe disease,” they wrote.

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