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COVID-19 Antibody Measurement Technology Assesses Virus Blocking Efficacy

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 22 Apr 2022
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Image: Researchers have developed the hybrid alphavirus-SARS-CoV-2 pseudovirus system (Photo courtesy of George Mason University)
Image: Researchers have developed the hybrid alphavirus-SARS-CoV-2 pseudovirus system (Photo courtesy of George Mason University)

Researchers have been investigating whether a person’s antibodies work to block the COVID-19 virus from infecting one’s system and if these antibodies are also capable of blocking emerging variants such as Omicron. Now, a team of researchers have developed a non-replicating rapid SARS-CoV-2 pseudovirus system that can quickly and quantitatively measure the ability of one’s antibodies to block SARS-CoV-2 and its variants in vitro.

A cross-disciplinary team coordinated by scientists from the Center for Infectious Disease Research (CIDR) at George Mason University (Fairfax, VA, USA) has developed Ha-CoV-2, a hybrid alphavirus-SARS-CoV-2 pseudovirus system that can robustly express reporter genes in cells within hours to rapidly measure neutralizing antibodies. Ha-CoV-2 pseudovirus was utilized against the COVID-19 virus and its variants including Alpha, Delta, and Omicron, as well as the currently emerging omicron BA.2 variant. This cutting-edge technology reduces a typical two-day process down to a few hours.

The science underpinning the discovery reviews the concentration of antibodies in one’s blood at various levels of dilution to determine the minimal level required to block the virus particle getting into the cell. The Ha-CoV-2 system can tell a person his/her/their antibodies’ strength to neutralize SARS-CoV-2 or a particular variant. Some have stronger antibodies due to prior infection, and whether a person received one or more vaccine. Vaccination and repeated exposure can trigger stronger antibody response. The technology has a multitude of virus monitoring applications in the public and private sector. The researchers are now applying the technology to measure neutralizing antibodies from immune-compromised people after their vaccination, in hope to gain detailed information so that educated decisions can be made regarding the need for booster shots.

“Most of the future baselines will start with protection (including when to get boosters), detection, and treatment against Omicrons. This rapid pseudovirus technology could identify antibody levels and their efficacy to determine if one should need additional protection and could become part of an organization’s or person’s structured antibody assessment process,” said Dr. Yuntao Wu, a professor and virologist in Mason’s College of Science and team’s primary investigator.

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George Mason University 

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