Scientists from the Technical University of Munich found that the immune system develops a high-quality antibody response after three encounters with the coronavirus spike protein.
These antibodies are also capable of neutralizing omicron efficiently.
This applies to people who are triple-vaccinated, to those having recovered and then received two vaccinations, and to double-vaccinated individuals who have experienced a breakthrough infection.
The research is published in Nature Medicine and was conducted by Prof. Ulrike Protzer et al.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, SARS-CoV-2 has continued to evolve, with new variants of concern (VoCs) spreading rapidly.
omicron has become the dominant variant in most countries because it is highly contagious and partially capable of evading the immune response.
In the current study, researchers found a total of three exposures to the viral spike protein lead to the production of virus-neutralizing antibodies not only in high quantity but also in high quality.
These high-quality antibodies bind to the viral spike protein more vigorously and are also capable of effectively fighting the omicron variant.
This applies to triple-vaccinated people, to people who have recovered from COVID-19 and then had two vaccinations, and to double-vaccinated people who then had a breakthrough infection.
In the study, the researchers examined individuals who had contracted SARS-CoV-2 during the first wave of the pandemic in spring 2020, and compared them to the second group of people who had not been infected.
Subsequently, both groups were offered vaccination with the mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine from BioNTech/Pfizer and were monitored for almost two years.
The study comprised 98 recovered people and 73 people without prior infection.
The team found omicron exhibited the most pronounced evasion from neutralizing antibodies compared to all other viral variants tested.
For omicron, people need considerably more and better antibodies to prevent infection.
The researchers developed a new virus neutralization test, which allowed them to analyze antibodies in many serum samples and different variants of the virus at high throughput rates.
They showed that three separate exposures to the spike protein can build up high-level neutralizing activity against all viral variants, including omicron.
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