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Scientific breakthrough: Israeli researchers identified antibody treatment for coronavirus

Tel Aviv University researchers say the therapy can cure patients and also be given to high-risk populations and front-line workers as a preventive measure

Tel Aviv University researcher Dr. Natalia Freund and her team (Photo TAU)

Tel Aviv University scientists identified a combination of COVID-19 antibodies that can be used as both medications for patients and preventive treatment for high-risk populations.

The antibody cocktail will be tested in clinical trials over the next few months. The university has submitted a patent application for the antibodies discovery.

The scientific achievement was made by Dr. Natalia Freund and Ph.D. student Michael Mor at the Laboratory of Human Antibody Research at TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine. The results of the study are under revision in the PLOS Pathogens journal.

The study reportedly also showed another important find. Asymptomatic COVID-19 patients or people who had mild symptoms developed a weaker antibody reaction and therefore may contract the disease again.

By contrast, all severely ill patients developed neutralizing antibodies that are likely to protect them from reinfection, the researchers said.

The research at Tel Aviv University began in April 2020, soon after the pandemic reached Israel. Dr. Freund and her team studied 18 of Israel’s earliest COVID-19 patients. They sequenced thousands of antibodies produced by these coronavirus patients. They were able to isolate and characterize six antibodies derived from the blood of two of severely ill patients.

They then proved that combinations of three antibodies at a time are effective against COVID-19, providing natural immunity.

The researchers found that the blood’s capacity for neutralizing the virus comes from several types of antibodies that simultaneously attack the virus, and the mix neutralizes the COVID-19 virus.

“Since the antibodies are natural and remain stable in the blood, one injection can protect against COVID-19 for several weeks, or even several months,” says Freund.

“Our vision is that in the future, the cocktail will be used to treat COVID-19 patients – like the experimental cocktail administered to U.S. President Trump, or as a preventive measure for high-risk populations and medical personnel – until the much-awaited vaccine finally arrives. This cocktail was developed naturally by the patients’ immune systems, which means that it is probably safe for use,” say the researchers.

In the second stage of the project, researchers tried to isolate specific antibodies that stop the virus from binding to the human cell and replicating itself inside it.

They identified six different antibodies, obtained from two severely ill participants, and proved that these antibodies are effective in both treating and preventing infection in cell cultures.

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