In a study published on Tuesday, Chinese scientists from a variety of institutions, including Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou and Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, suggested that they may have the panacea to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The authors claim that monoclonal antibody 35B5 has been shown in both in vitro (laboratory or test-tube experiment) and in vivo (performed on living organism) studies to neutralize wild-type COVID-19 (without mutations) as well as variants of concern (VOCs). The in vivo tests were carried out on humanized mice.
The scientists noted that the antibody also works on the highly mutated Delta variant, which has been responsible for deadly waves of infection around the world since it first emerged in India earlier this year.
“35B5 neutralizes SARS-CoV-2 [Covid-19] by targeting a unique epitope [part of the antigen molecule which the antibody attaches itself to] that avoids the prevailing mutation sites,” the study explains. In other words, 35B5 targets a unique part of the virus that does not change during the mutation process.
By targeting part of the virus which is not impacted by the mutations identified in circulating VOCs, antibody 35B5 demonstrated capacity for “pan-neutralizing efficacy” across multiple strains.
These findings, the scientists argue, could be “exploited for the rational design of a universal SARS-CoV-2 [COVID-19] vaccine.”
The part of the antigen targeted by antibody 35B5 is also present in the Omicron variant, the researchers note.
The research could prove particularly valuable amid the spread of Omicron, which is highly mutated.
Leaders and scientists around the world are concerned the mutant virus could evade vaccine-induced immunity and immunity gained from previous infection.