SARS antibody could be a breakthrough in fighting COVID-19

VIDEO: UW researchers turn to survivors of 2003 SARS outbreak

SEATTLE — It might be a breakthrough.

Researchers say that an antibody called S309, taken from a person who recovered from SARS 17 years ago, neutralized COVID-19 in a lab.

"We believe this is a significant finding," said David Veesler of the University of Washington School of Medicine, who is among the senior authors in a report published on Monday in the journal Nature.

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Our bodies produce antibodies that bind onto and neutralize pathogens.

Researchers are trying to find the best antibodies to attack COVID-19, so they can develop a treatment for people who are infected, or a preventive medicine for those who are high-risk.

"To give the antibody to people before they're infected, for instance, health care workers," Veesler said.

Many scientists are looking for antibodies from COVID-19 patients.

Veesler's group is among the first to look for effective antibodies from a SARS patient infected in the 2002-03 outbreak, which is harder, because it's a different virus.

"It's really looking for a needle in a haystack," Veesler said.

And, they found it.

Now, Vir Biotechnology in California is fast-tracking the development and testing of therapies made with S309.

The next step is to try it on people, and there's hope because the antibody came from a person.

"It is very exciting," Veesler said.

One of the advantages of working with antibodies from SARS Co-V is that they are more mature than antibodies from the current virus, known as SARS Co-V2.