COVID-19: Not all antibodies are created equal in the fight against...

COVID-19: Not all antibodies are created equal in the fight against...
COVID-19: Not all antibodies are created equal in the fight against...
When a person is infected with SARS-CoV-2, the number of antibodies that can neutralize the virus increases rapidly. Once the person has recovered, their level will drop.

In a study last month, researchers led by Andrés Finzi, professor at Université de Montréal, holder of a Canadian research chair on retroviral access, and Renée Bazin, director of innovation at Héma-Québec, showed that this neutralizing capacity decreased after six weeks.

In a new, non-peer-reviewed study published on the bioRxiv preprint server, the researchers have now shown that this decrease is related to the disappearance of a family of antibodies called immunoglobulin M or IgM in blood plasma.

In other words, IgM antibodies play a key role in virus neutralization and are part of the arsenal the immune system uses to fight the infection.

To find out more, we spoke to Finzi and Bazin, the two main co-authors of the new study.

Your study is quite unique. How did you come to such an observation?

In our previous studies we had observed that the decrease in neutralization activity over time correlated with the decrease in antibodies specific for the peak of the virus, glycoprotein S. We had also found that this decrease was more closely related to the disappearance of IgM, a family of antibodies, which make up approximately 5% of all antibodies in plasma.

In our latest study, we selectively removed IgM from the plasma of 25 volunteers who had recovered from COVID-19 and tested their neutralization capacity. Our observation is clear: the lack of IgM significantly reduces the neutralizing power of the plasma and shows its main role in this immune response.

How do you think your results might influence vaccine development?

Vaccine development is currently focused on stimulating the production of antibodies. Antibodies, including IgM, are just one dimension of our immune system that helps us fight viral infections.

A better understanding of how our immune system manages to get rid of the virus is important in order to know what types of immune responses the vaccines should trigger.

In our laboratories, we also looked at how long these immune responses persist, as this can provide evidence-based data on whether a booster dose might be required as part of a vaccination. In the event of a pandemic, this is important information for the health authorities.

What are the next steps in your research?

We continue to study the immune response of people infected with SARS-CoV-2 for extended periods of time to better understand how long the response is lasting. We are also evaluating other mechanisms by which antibodies could fight this virus.

In terms of development, we are working on developing monoclonal antibody cocktails that could be given to COVID-19 patients.

About this study

“The main role of IgM in the neutralizing activity of convalescent plasma against SARS-CoV-2” by Romain Gasser et al. was published in bioRxiv on October 9, 2020. The study was funded by the Québec Department of Business and Innovation, the Fondation du CHUM, the COVID-19 Community Task Force, and the Canadian Institutes for Health Research.

About the CRCHUM

The University of Montreal Hospital Research Center (CRCHUM) is one of the leading hospital research centers in North America. The aim is to improve adult health through a research continuum that covers disciplines such as basic science, clinical research, and public health. Over 1,850 people work at the CRCHUM, including more than 550 researchers and more than 460 doctoral students

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