Antibody levels in the blood of COVID-19 patients drop rapidly in the weeks after their bodies cleared the novel coronavirus and symptoms subsided according to a study.
In the absence of approved, effective treatments for COVID-19, some hospitals have treated patients with severe symptoms with blood plasma after recovering from patients.
Ultimately, if convalescent plasma is found to have a clear benefit, the new study published in the journal mBio concluded that it must be collected during a specific time window after recovery.
However, convalescent patients cannot donate blood for at least 14 days after symptoms have subsided to give the body time to remove virus particles.
“We don’t want to transfuse the virus, just the antibodies,” said Andres Finzi from the University of Montreal in Canada.
“At the same time, our work shows that the ability of the plasma to neutralize virus particles decreases in these first few weeks,” said Finzi.
The SARS-CoV-2 spike protein plays a crucial role in the detection and invasion of the virus by host cells.
Antibodies produced by the body’s immune system bind to part of this protein, blocking the ability of this “key” to contact the host’s cellular “barrier”, thereby preventing the virus particle from infecting a cell host, Finzi said.
Previous studies suggest that antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein peak 2 or 3 weeks after symptoms appear.
Results from an earlier cross-sectional study by the Finzi group of more than 100 patients indicated that the ability of the plasma to neutralize the virus decreased significantly between 3 and 6 weeks after symptoms appeared.
In the new longitudinal study, Finzi and his colleagues analyzed blood samples every month from 31 people who had recovered from COVID-19.
They measured the immunoglobulin levels that act against the coronavirus S protein and tested the antibodies’ ability to neutralize the virus.
The researchers observed differences in the height of individual patients, but identified a consistent overall signal.
The levels of immunoglobulins G, A, and M, which target the binding site, decreased between 6 and 10 weeks after symptoms began.
During the same period, the researchers said the antibodies’ ability to neutralize the virus also decreased in a similar manner.
Understanding how antibody levels change over time is important not only to optimize the use of convalescent plasma, but also to understand the effectiveness of the vaccine and to determine whether previously infected people are at risk of re-infection are or not. PTI
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