Antibodies to common cold coronaviruses do not protect against SARS-CoV-2

Antibodies that react to both ordinary coronaviruses and SARS-CoV-2 are common in the population but don’t neutralize the COVID-19-causing virus.

Past exposure to seasonal coronaviruses (CoVs), which cause the common cold, does not result in the production of antibodies that protect against the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, according to a study led by Scott Hensley, an associate professor of microbiology at the Perelman School of Medicine.

Microscopic view of an antibody surrounding virus cells.

Prior studies have suggested that recent exposure to seasonal CoVs protects against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. However, research from Hensley’s team, published in Cell, suggests that if there is such protection, it does not come from antibodies.

“We found that many people possessed antibodies that could bind to SARS-CoV-2 before the pandemic, but these antibodies could not prevent infections,” Hensley says. “Although antibodies from prior coronavirus infections cannot prevent SARS-CoV-2 infections, it is possible that preexisting memory B cells and T cells could potentially provide some level of protection or at least reduce the disease severity of COVID-19. Studies need to be completed to test that hypothesis.”

Read more at Penn Medicine News.