In a press release issued on September 16, 2020, pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Co. announced some encouraging preliminary results from an ongoing clinical trial of their antibody for treatment of COVID-19 disease. Is this the news we’ve been waiting so long to hear? Well…maybe.
So, let’s talk about antibodies. What are they? Antibodies are specialized proteins that are a major arm of our immune defense system.
In the case of viral infections, antibodies can lock onto the virus, block it from infecting cells and, eventually, remove it from circulation.
They can also detect cells that are already infected and destroy them so they don’t become a factory for producing new viruses.
Antibodies are selective and recognize specific parts of the virus. They are made by the B-lymphocytes, or B-cells, which are a type of white blood cell.
When we get a viral, fungal or bacterial infection, the immune system throws everything including the kitchen sink at the invading organism.
The B-cells produce many different antibodies that target different parts of the virus. Some of these antibodies are weak and have no protective effect, but others hit the bullseye and can very effectively neutralize the virus and eliminate it. It would be great to capture these “super” antibodies.
We know that people can make highly effective antibodies against the Sars-2-coronavirus because most will recover from the infection.
We can measure coronavirus antibodies in the blood of people who have had the infection and recovered. We have even used antibodies collected from