Vaccine boosters may not be necessary anymore, according to a peer-reviewed study conducted by a team of Israeli researchers who say they have found antibodies that effectively neutralize the coronavirus.
Researchers led by TAU’s microbiologist Dr. Natalia Freund found antibodies that could be utilized to create a very effective antibody infusion, which is already used to treat some coronavirus patients.
The study, which began in October 2020 and was peer-reviewed, was published in Nature’s Communications Biology section.
“When the coronavirus hit Israel, everything stopped. But not our team. We are working twenty-four seven to isolate neutralizing antibodies to serve as new therapeutics and guides for vaccines against the new corona virus. Recently, we have isolated six such antibodies from two donors that were sick and recovered from COVID-19,” Freund announced in June 2020.
Several antibodies were tested by researchers at Tel Aviv University (TAU), and two were shown to be effective against all known strains of the coronavirus, including the most recent Delta and Omicron.
“To summarize, our study provides functional and atomic-level structural data on the interactions between naturally elicited antibodies and SARS-CoV-2 variants. Both TAU-2303 and TAU-2212 are potently neutralizing but arise through different B cell developmental programs. Neutralization by TAU-2212 is successful for most of the mutations with the exception of E484K. We therefore conclude that combining mAbs that can bind E484K, such as TAU-1109, −2303 or −2310 with TAU-2212 may be useful for broad spectrum anti-viral neutralization,” the study concluded.
Times of Israel reported:
“COVID-19 infection can cause serious illness, and we know that providing antibodies in the first days following infection can stop the spread of the virus,” Freund said.
“It is therefore possible that by using effective antibody treatment, we will not have to provide booster doses to the entire population every time there is a new variant,” she added.
According to Freund, on a technical level, the reason for the success of the two antibodies seems to be that they bind to a different part of the coronavirus spike protein than most others.
Working with doctoral students Michael Mor and Ruofan Lee, she sequenced all the B immune system cells from the blood of people who had recovered from the original COVID strain in Israel, and isolated nine antibodies that the patients produced.
Now, the top two antibodies have been tested against a range of variants, and performed well against all of them.
“According to our findings, the effectiveness of the first antibody, TAU-1109, in neutralizing the Omicron strain is 92 percent, and in neutralizing the Delta strain, 90%,” Freund said.
“The second antibody, TAU-2310, neutralizes the Omicron variant with an efficacy of 84%, and the Delta variant with an efficacy of 97%,” she added.
The antibodies are named TAU because they were identified at Tel Aviv University.
To ensure that her lab work was done correctly, Freund sent the antibodies to have their effectiveness against live viruses checked in laboratory cultures at the University of California San Diego, and for further testing at Bar-Ilan University’s medicine faculty in the Galilee. These studies corroborated her findings.
Freund said that antibodies clearly give strong protection, as they prevent infection straight after recovery — but then they wane, and immunity reduces. In her view, this makes it logical to invest in artificially boosting antibodies, and she hopes to do exactly this with the antibodies she identified.
“For reasons we still don’t yet fully understand, the level of antibodies against COVID-19 declines significantly after three months,” she explained. “This is why we see people getting infected again and again, even after being vaccinated three times.
You can read the full study here.