Researchers at Tel Aviv University this week said they identified a combination of COVID-19 antibodies that can serve as both medication for patients suffering from the disease and a preventive treatment for high-risk populations.
The antibody cocktail will be tested in clinical trials over the next few months.
The treatment was developed by Dr. Natalia Freund and PhD student Michael Mor at the Laboratory of Human Antibody Research at the faculty of medicine and is under revision in the PLOS Pathogens journal.
The study reportedly also showed that asymptomatic COVID-19 sufferers or those who had mild symptoms developed a weaker antibody reaction, and therefore may contract the disease again.
By contrast, all severely ill patients analyzed in the study developed neutralizing antibodies that are likely to protect them from reinfection, the researchers said.
Dr. Freund and her team sequenced thousands of antibodies produced in the bodies of Israeli COVID-19 patients. The researchers were able to isolate and characterize six antibodies derived from the blood of two 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.
The research began in April 2020, soon after the pandemic reached Israel. Dr. Freund and her team studied 18 of Israel's earliest COVID-19 patients.