Scientists Discover Antibody That Can Neutralize 2019-nCoV Coronavirus

Chinese molecular biologists have found out that one of the antibodies discovered during the 2003 atypical pneumonia epidemic can neutralize the coronavirus that sparked the pneumonia outbreak in China and a number of other nations, says an article published in bioRxiv internet library.

“We report for the first time that […] CR3022 could bind potently with 2019-nCoV RBD,” the scientists write in their article. “Interestingly, some of the most potent […] antibodies (e.g., m396, CR3014) […] failed to bind 2019-nCoV spike protein.”

This discovery, according to the scientists from the Wuhan Institute of Virology and Fudan University in Shanghai, gives hope that CR3022 compound, combined with other antibodies that can bind with the new coronavirus, would allow to create the first effective remedies for the novel pneumonia and stop the epidemics.

The scientists have come to this conclusion after they observed how the copy of the RBD protein, which the Chinese virus uses to infiltrate human cells, interacts with various antibodies discovered in patient bodies or created during the 2003 atypical pneumonia outbreak.

These viruses are closely related and their RBD proteins are similar, which, the scientists presumed, allowed for a slight chance that these old molecules would also neutralize the new pathogen. On the one hand, those hopes were fulfilled with the CR3022, but the four other antibodies, including the synthetic cure m336, created several years ago in the Wuhan Institute of Virology, failed to react to the viral protein.

This discovery has greatly surprised the scientists, since computer models did not indicate that slight RBD differences would make the 2019-nCoV invulnerable to those protein molecules. The scientists now study the infected blood samples, in hopes to find other antibodies that would bind with the coronavirus more effectively than the CR3022 does.

– The novel coronavirus

On December 31, 2019, Chinese authorities informed the World Health Organization (WHO) about an outbreak of an unknown pneumonia in the city of Wuhan – a large trade and industrial center in central China populated by 11 million people. On January 7, Chinese experts identified the infecting agent: coronavirus 2019-nCoV.

According to recent data, over 6,000 people have been infected with the virus, with 132 people dead. The virus continues to spread in China and other states, including Australia, Vietnam, Italy, Germany, Cambodia, Malaysia, Nepal, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, the US, Thailand, France, Sri Lanka and Japan.

The new virus belongs to the same group as the coronavirus of the well-known severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). Both viruses have claimed lives of several hundred people in the Middle East and East Asia, causing repeated epidemics, spread through camels and poultry. The initial carriers of the 2019-nCoV virus were bats, the scientists believe.

All three pathogens relate to the so-called coronaviruses. They cause similar symptoms: fever, cough, trouble breathing and constant phlegm production. The incubation period is up to 12 days, followed by the strongest fever. Most lethal cases happened due to exhaustion, complications and accompanying infections when left unattended.

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