In a new study from the University of California Los Angeles, researchers found people who’ve had a COVID-19 infection and received a vaccine have high-quality antibodies that act against spike variants—and more effectively than either group alone.
The pandemic continues to propagate, in part, because as the coronavirus spike protein evolves. New variants emerge that help the infection spread more easily from person to person.
As a result, antibodies that a person developed after an early infection or after vaccination may not adequately protect the body from these newer emerging variants.
An area of the spike protein called the receptor binding domain, or RBD, enables the virus to invade a host cell. This region is also a critical target for antibodies.
In the study, the team compared anti-RBD antibodies in the blood of participants to the ability of the antibodies to neutralize the virus.
In uninfected patients who had received one of two COVID-19 vaccines, the researchers found antibodies that were less effective against mutations in the new variants.
Similarly, when the researchers analyzed blood samples from people who’d been infected with the coronavirus before May 2020—before the first confirmation of variants—had reduced potency against newer variants compared to the original.
These findings suggest that both mild infection and vaccination produce antibodies that still leave a person vulnerable to new variants.
But the results differed dramatically for people who’d been infected before May 2020 and, a year later, been vaccinated.
In these prior-infected, vaccinated people, the researchers found antibodies that were unchanged in efficacy against the original sequence—but just as potent against new variants.
These results align with similar findings that also show high-quality antibodies in people who’d been infected and vaccinated.
Studies like this one showing how antibodies change in quality could help researchers improve the implementation of vaccines and boosters—not only for COVID-19 but for the next pathogen that comes along.
If you care about COVID, please read studies about poor mental health that may increase your COVID-19 infection risk and findings that why some people get ‘long COVID’ while others don’t.
For more information about health, please see recent studies about antibodies from COVID-19 vaccination much higher than from infection, and results showing that your blood sugar history can predict your risk of severe COVID-19.
The study is published in mBio. One author of the study is Otto Yang, M.D.
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