A team of Dutch researchers is studying an antibody that could help defeat the coronavirus.
A stroke of luck
For years, Dutch researchers have been working on a monoclonal antibody developed to treat SARS. When the COVID-19 epidemic began, it was discovered that this virus had a lot in common with SARS. In fact, they share about 80% of their genetic material (1). Therefore, scientists thought that the surface proteins of the two viruses might also be similar, and found out that their structure was identical by 77% (2, 3).
How the antibody works
The antibody binds to a protein present on the surface of the virus, the S protein. Normally, this viral protein locks onto the cells of our body, allowing the virus to enter and replicate itself (4). The antibody is able to block the viral protein S, preventing the virus from entering the cells.
This discovery gives us hope: Monoclonal antibodies could be used to treat COVID-19. At the moment, the research is still ongoing and the antibody will now undergo further testing. After that, it should be possible to start a large-scale production by pharmaceutical companies.
The Dutch scientists hope to successfully complete their research (5). The treatment with monoclonal antibodies could represent an alternative to a vaccine to cure COVID-19, and could perhaps be available before a vaccine development process is completed.
Marco De Nardin, M.D., Anesthesiologist, Critical Care Doctor
- (1) https://www.med4.care/coronavirus-analisi-variabilita-del-genoma/
- (2) Wrapp, D. et al. Cryo-EM structure of the 2019-nCoV spike in the prefusion conformation. Science (2020).
- (3) Walls, A. C. et al. Structure, Function, and Antigenicity of the SARS-CoV-2 Spike Glycoprotein. Cell (2020).
- (4) Walls, A. C. et al. Unexpected receptor functional mimicry elucidates activation of coronavirus fusion. Cell 176, 1026-1039. e15 (2019).
- (5) https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.03.11.987958v1