Researchers from the Karolinska Institutet have made a significant breakthrough in COVID-19 prevention with the development of nasal drops containing IgA antibodies.
Published in PNAS, their study reveals a potential new method to protect high-risk individuals from various SARS-CoV-2 variants and possibly other infections.
IgA antibodies, which are naturally present in the mucosal membranes of the airways, play a crucial role in the adaptive immune system. People with low levels of mucosal IgA have been found to be more susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 breakthrough infections.
This contrasts with current COVID-19 vaccines, which primarily stimulate an IgG antibody response and have limited efficacy against new omicron variants.
To address this gap, the team led by Professor Qiang Pan-Hammarström utilized genetic engineering to produce IgA antibodies that target the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein in a manner similar to IgG antibodies.
In their experiments, mice infected with the omicron variant received these engineered IgA antibodies through nasal administration. The results were striking: the virus load in the trachea and lungs of the treated mice significantly reduced.
The IgA antibodies demonstrated a stronger binding to the spike protein and were more effective at neutralizing the virus compared to their IgG counterparts.
Associate Professor Harold Marcotte, the first author of the study, clarified that while these antibodies are not intended to replace vaccines, they offer a form of passive immunization.
This strategy could be especially beneficial for vulnerable populations, such as the elderly or immunocompromised individuals, who are at a higher risk of severe infection.
The researchers are optimistic about the broader applications of this method.
Beyond COVID-19, they see potential in using it against other infectious diseases, including influenza and other respiratory infections, as well as gastric mucosal infections like Helicobacter pylori, for which no vaccines are currently available.
This innovative approach represents a promising advancement in infectious disease prevention.
By offering a different mode of protection that complements traditional vaccines, these nasal drops could become an essential tool in the ongoing battle against COVID-19 and other infectious threats, particularly for those most at risk.
For more information about COVID, please see recent studies about new evidence on rare blood clots after COVID-19 vaccination, and results showing zinc could help reduce COVID-19 infection risk.
The research findings can be found in PNAS.
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