COVID-19 Antibody Repertoires in Infection and Vaccination
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to represent a major threat to health worldwide. This project aims to investigate B cell-mediated immunity to SARS-CoV-2 infection in different health states. Specifically, the consortium will investigate and compare the effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection on the antibody repertoire in patients who contract the virus through natural means, in COVID-19 patients who also suffer from HIV and in vaccinated individuals. Ultimately, the research may identify better antibodies for evaluation and progress into treatment and prevention trials of SARS-CoV-2.
SARS-CoV-2 is characterised by the lethal combination of strong transmissibility, partially due to asymptomatic spread, and its high rate of respiratory complications. The current lack of available treatment options and the long timeline for global vaccine rollout signifies an urgent unmet clinical need for innovative therapeutic approaches. The collaborating research teams in Switzerland and the UK are investigating B cells, a type of immune cell responsible for generating antibodies, in blood samples from anti-SARS-CoV-2 vaccinated individuals and from HIV-positive convalescent COVID-19 patients. Insights into antibody responses arising from infection and vaccination are vital for optimising vaccine candidates. Furthermore, it is not known how HIV-1/SARS-CoV-2 co-infection may impact antibody responses.
Many COVID-19 vaccines aim to elicit SARS-CoV-2 specific neutralising antibodies (nAbs) to prevent infection upon virus exposure. The consortium expects that the molecular characterisation of nAbs elicited by vaccination in comparison to those already characterised from natural infection will give insights into how vaccines can be improved to generate optimised nAb responses. Specifically, the research will compare the human B cell receptor repertoire against SARS-CoV-2 across different immunological states (natural infection, vaccination, infection in HIV patients). In particular, the study of HIV-infected individuals in the context of SARS-CoV-2 will provide insights into the immune profiles of immunocompromised individuals in this setting.
The consortium combines complementary laboratory techniques to address key questions related to our understanding of the immune response to COVID-19. Their work may identify recombinant antibodies with diagnostic or therapeutic potential in the management of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This research is part of a joint initiative to bring together research teams from the BRCCH and the European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) in collaborative projects. The research team supported by the BRCCH, led by Prof Andreas Moor (ETH Zurich) builds upon a B cell immunity project. The research team supported by the EDCTP, led by Dr Julie Fox (King’s College London) builds upon the COVAB project.