Emory researchers locate antibodies that could neutralize COVID-19

The news is key toward developing a vaccine for the virus and treatments for those who are infected.

ATLANTA — Scientists at Emory University have discovered that many patients hospitalized with COVID-19 develop antibodies within six days of testing positive.

The news is key toward developing a vaccine for the virus and treatments for those who are infected.

Researchers say it’s also the first step toward learning if plasma donated by survivors can help make others immune to COVID-19.

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“This is very promising in terms of understanding aspects of immunity, how long the immune response can last in patients, but also has significant implications for development in much need vaccines, as well as using convalescent plasma for plasma therapy,” said Dr. Mehul Suthar with Emory University School of Medicine.

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The initial blood samples used in this study were from 44 patients being treated for COVID-19 at Emory University Hospital and Emory University Hospital Midtown.

Very few teams have been able to focus on neutralizing antibodies from patients who are hospitalized, according to Suthar.

“This study provides a snapshot of the immune response as it is happening, not after the battle is over,” Suthar said.

The co-authors of the the study called it reliable and specific.

“This means that we can use this test, not only for diagnosis while the patient is sick, but since it remains in your blood after the infection is over, we can also determine who has been exposed to the virus in the past,” said Jens Wrammert.

They’ve ramped up so fast that the labs at Emory can now process thousands of samples each day, so they’re able to not only test every patient, but all healthcare workers to see if they have the antibody.

The researchers say they still need more time and more trials to determine how long the antibodies stay in the blood, meaning how long someone stays protected and immune once vaccinated or recovering from the disease.

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Fears of catching coronavirus have kept many people from going to the hospital.