University scientists find antibody that ‘neutralizes’ coronavirus

Wei Li, Ph.D., researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, demonstrates a step in the process of obtaining a potential drug against COVID-19. (Photo: UPMC)

An antibody is a protein component of the immune system that circulates in the blood, recognizes foreign substances like bacteria and viruses, and neutralizes them.

(by Joseph Guzman, The Hill) – Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have isolated an antibody component that “completely and specifically neutralizes the SARS-CoV-2 virus” and say it could potentially be used as a viable therapeutic and prophylactic  against the coronavirus.

The antibody component, which is 10 times smaller than a full-sized antibody, has been used to create the drug Ab8. Researchers reported on Monday in the journal Cell that the drug has been highly effective in preventing and treating coronavirus in mice and hamsters. Scientists say the drug also does not bind to human cells, suggesting it won’t result in negative side-effects in humans.

The component’s tiny size makes it possible for the drug to be developed as an inhaled mist or injected drug rather than an IV.

“Ab8 not only has potential as therapy for COVID-19, but it also could be used to keep people from getting SARS-CoV-2 infections,” John Mellors, co-author of the study and chief of the Division of Infectious Disease at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Pitt, said in a statement.

“Antibodies of larger size have worked against other infectious diseases and have been well tolerated, giving us hope that it could be an effective treatment for patients with COVID-19 and for protection of those who have never had the infection and are not immune,” he said.

The drug was researched in collaboration with researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) at Galveston, the University of British Columbia and University of Saskatchewan.

Researchers from UTMB’s Center for Biodefense and Emerging Diseases and Galveston National Laboratory tested the drug and found it blocked the virus from entering cells, while researchers at UNC found Ab8 decreased the amount of infectious virus in mice by 10-fold even at the lowest dose.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is a global challenge facing humanity, but biomedical science and human ingenuity are likely to overcome it,” Mellors said. “We hope that the antibodies we have discovered will contribute to that triumph.”

Published at thehill .com. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from The Hill.


1. The first paragraph of a news article should answer the questions who, what, where and when. (In this article, 1st and 2nd paragraphs). List the who, what, where and when of this news item. (NOTE: The remainder of a news article provides details on the why and/or how.)

2. Define the following as used in the article:

3. Researchers have developed a drug (Ab8) using the antibody component. What benefit is there to the drug not binding to human cells?

4. a) How small is the antibody component compared to a full-sized antibody?
b) What is the benefit of its tiny size?

5. Watch the video under “Resources” below. What are the two major uses for the antibody?

6. Dr. Mellors asserts that a vaccine may or may not become available in the near future. (Although it was not thought that researchers would isolate an antibody and develop a potentially highly effective drug either.)
What is your reaction to this news report? – How encouraged are you that there are scientists and researchers throughout the U.S. and the world working on vaccines and other coronavirus treatments?


An antibody is a protein component of the immune system that circulates in the blood, recognizes foreign substances like bacteria and viruses, and neutralizes them. (Read more at

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