Ever feel like you are living in the crazy house with how many times the story keeps changing about COVID antibodies? They do protect, they don’t protect. Antibody plasma works, it doesn’t work. Antibodies do last, they don’t last. Other coronavirus antibodies don’t cross react and protect, and now they do. Would you just like a final answer? Well in medical research, there are always questions, but we do move towards better answers over time if we are willing to accept the facts of the realities we discover in experiments. In this case, it does appear that some antibodies to the old-fashioned common cold coronavirus of pre-2020 pandemic world do react AND protect against COVID 19.
Let’s back up. Coronaviruses are not brand new in the world. We have been dealing with them for centuries as common colds. Normally they cause snots, coughs, fevers, missed school days, and other milder symptoms. Only rarely would they cause serious disease. Different animal species deal with their own versions. It is only in the last few decades where coronaviruses have mutated to the forms that cause more life-threatening disease. SARS in the early 2000’s and now COVID 19 have gained much more attention due to their severities.
The recent work by Adrabi and others from Scripps tries to put to rest the question of whether or not the antibodies left over from prior simple coronaviruses provides any protection when someone is exposed to the new SARS CoV2 which causes COVID 19. Others have been debating if the presence of such protective antibodies might partially explain the wide range of severity for COVID 19 in which some barely notice their infection and others die. In a past blog I discuss how other researchers had found that infection with SARS CoV1 (the first scary coronavirus) appeared to provide immune protection against the recent SARS CoV2 cousin.
Adrabi and the team evaluated patients who had recovered from COVID 19 to look for different antibodies to coronaviruses in their blood. These were compared to samples taken in others before the pandemic. With work they were able to identify antibodies that reacted with both the common cold coronaviruses and SARS CoV2. They believe this cross reactive antibody is produced by a memory B cell stimulated by a prior regular coronavirus infection.
B cells are the type of immune cell which produce antibodies. Antibodies are complex proteins which attach to invaders like viruses and mark them for attack by the other arms of the immune system. These B cells become stimulated which they encounter an invader they recognized. After the invader is fought off, some of the B cells turn into memory B cells. These “remember” the invader’s protein that triggered them in the first place. When they run into that protein, known as an antigen, they wake up quickly, multiply, and pump out more antibodies against the invader. This allows a faster response to the same infection preventing infection the second time around.
Why would this antibody work against varying types of coronaviruses? This particular antibody binds at the base of the spike protein. The spike protein which is used to allow the virus to enter our cells has regions which mutate more often and therefore vary between strains. However. This cross-reactive antibody binds in a region that remains the same across different coronavirus varieties.
Next, the researchers want to create vaccines against this area of the spike protein which would act similarly to this antibody. That would be the normal response in conventional medicine. On the other hand, those of us who are wary of more vaccines consider whether the whole hygiene hypothesis is worth revisiting. Allowing kids to experience the world of probiotics, including a few “colds”, as children likely strengthens their immune system for later life. Helping others live healthier, more abundant life means thinking inside AND outside the convention medicine box. While they work on these questions in the lab, we will continue helping patients overcome both acute and Long Hauler COVID with functional medicine.
Ge Song, Wan-ting He, Sean Callaghan, Fabio Anzanello, Deli Huang, James Ricketts, Jonathan L. Torres, Nathan Beutler, Linghang Peng, Sirena Vargas, Jon Cassell, Mara Parren, Linlin Yang, Caroline Ignacio, Davey M. Smith, James E. Voss, David Nemazee, Andrew B. Ward, Thomas Rogers, Dennis R. Burton, Raiees Andrabi. Cross-reactive serum and memory B-cell responses to spike protein in SARS-CoV-2 and endemic coronavirus infection. Nature Communications, 2021; 12 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-23074-3
Thanks to Science Daily
Scripps Research Institute. “Versatile coronavirus antibody may be starting point for broader-acting vaccines: A special type of antibody is produced in patients who’ve had COVID-19 as well as less-serious coronaviruses that cause colds.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 May 2021. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/05/210527204230.htm>.
Read Am I Still Immune? by Dr. Eric Potter
Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.