Researchers at Rockefeller University in New York have found that most people exposed to COVID-19, and who experience symptoms, can develop antibodies capable of blocking the virus. Their findings offer hope for the success of a potential vaccine, and research avenues for more drugs to combat it.
Since April 1st, a team of researchers including immunologists, medical scientists, and virologists, has been collecting blood samples from people who have recovered from COVID-19. In total, they collected samples from 149 people over five weeks. Each participant experienced symptoms for an average of 12 days and had their first symptoms an average of 39 days before donating their blood.
To test their antibodies, The researchers mixed their blood with a pseudo-COVID-19 virus in lab conditions. They then measured how well the mixture was then able to infect human cells in a petri dish.
Although most of the samples had a poor to modest antibody response, closer inspection revealed that the problem was more to do with how many antibodies were present- as opposed to whether they were effective. Moreover, the researchers noted that those whose blood had antibodies below detectable levels might have been able to resolve the infection so quickly that the antibodies were not needed to be produced.
"This suggests just about everybody can do this, which is very good news for vaccines," says Michel C. Nussenzweig, head of the Laboratory of Molecular Immunology at Rockefeller, and lead author of the study. "It means if you were able to create a vaccine that elicits these particular antibodies, then the vaccine is likely to be effective and work for a lot of people."
The researchers were also able to identify three distinct antibodies with a high potency against the virus. They are thus working on developing these antibodies into drugs both to treat and prevent COVID-19.