SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is believed to have been identified by Chinese scientists as a potent new synthetic antibody.
The finding comes as the US Food and Therapeutic Administration, which oversees drug development, is reducing production of older antibody therapies that have little or no effect on the variation.
Upon emergence in November 2021, the Omicron variant created untold problems for health professionals around the world. It seems to have evaded every defence used to control the spread of previous strains of the virus, including masks, vaccines, and antibody treatments.
Researchers at Fudan University in Shanghai, however, think they may have discovered a recipe for a synthetic antibody that would prove to be a match for Omicron.
Researchers made the discovery while investigating another disease.
According to the lead scientist, Professor Huang Jinghe of Fudan University in Shanghai, the discovery put humans “a step ahead in the race” against the pandemic.
An article describing their work was published on the bioRxiv preprint website. It is yet to be peer reviewed and is titled “Combating the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant with non-Omicron neutralizing antibodies.”
In an interview with the South China Morning Post, Professor Huang Jinghe, an instructor at Fudan University and the lead scientist in the study, said she accidentally synthesized the antibody out of two different natural antibodies produced by human immune cells in response to encountering SARS-CoV-2.
In their individual forms, both natural antibodies had little chance of stopping Omicron, but in a new form, the man-made antibody was able to breach the virus’ defences by using a string of moves Huang likened to that in video games like “Street Fighter.”
Omicron can only be neutralized by a handful of antibodies on the planet, said Jighe adding that she feels like she has been hit by God’s grace.
The researcher called the discovery “a godsend” and said it would put humans “a step ahead” in the race against the ultra-transmissible virus.
Huang explained that she wasn’t trying to develop an anti-Omicron antibody, but had been researching another infectious disease, but upon discovering the antibody’s efficacy, decided to test it out on Omicron as well.
The authors report that their antibody is effective against other versions of SARS-CoV-2, as well as against SARS-CoV-1, a related disease better known as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Theoretically, it will also work against future variants.