Most research on immunity to the SARS-CoV-2 virus and COVID-19 vaccine development has focused on antibody responses to the spike protein and other viral surface proteins.
Scientists from the University of Pittsburgh and elsewhere found antibodies that recognize the virus’s internal proteins could also be important for immunity and disease outcomes.
The research is published in Cell Reports and was conducted by Jishnu Das et al.
In the study, the team performed the most comprehensive analysis to date of COVID-19 antibodies in a small set of patients with severe disease.
They analyzed blood samples that had been collected from 21 patients who were hospitalized with severe COVID-19 in 2020—prior to the approval of vaccines.
Seven of these patients died from the disease, and the other 14 survived.
The team found that antibody profiles of internal viral proteins, including those conserved across coronaviruses, predicted which patients survived or died just as well as corresponding profiles for surface proteins.
This suggests that targeting other parts of the virus beyond the spike protein could be important for enhancing COVID-19 vaccines and therapies.
When the team restricted their analysis to antibodies against non-canonical antigens conserved across coronaviruses—including those that cause the common cold and other respiratory infections—in COVID-19 patients, they could still distinguish survivors and non-survivors.
These antibodies were also found in nine pre-pandemic, healthy control subjects, suggesting that exposure to coronaviruses besides SARS-CoV-2 could induce antibody responses linked with favorable outcomes in severe COVID-19.
According to the team, these findings could inform the development of pan-coronavirus vaccines.
In ongoing work, the team is using their platform to look at antibodies in vaccinated people with breakthrough infections compared with unvaccinated individuals. They’re also interested in understanding whether different antibodies play different roles in protection against COVID-19 over time.
If you care about COVID, please read studies about universal antibody therapy for all COVID-19 variants, and this new oral drug may prevent death from COVID-19.
For more information about health, please see recent studies about monitor at home that can help you detect COVID-19 early, and results showing how COVID-19 pandemic linked to more liver disease cases.
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