Emory researchers find COVID-19 patients quickly develop immunity to virus

Researchers at Emory University in Atlanta have found nearly all of the patients hospitalized with acute COVID-19 infections developed antibodies against the novel virus within six days of testing positive for COVID-19.

The study involved 44 patients hospitalized at Emory University Hospital and Emory University Midtown Hospital in Atlanta.

The researchers found 40 out of 44 of the patients tested rapidly developed virus-neutralizing antibodies while acutely infected with COVID-19.

The study focused on virus-neutralizing antibodies that target part of the spike protein on the surface of the virus, known as the receptor-binding domain, or RBD. 

The RBD allows the virus to grabs on to cells and penetrate them, where the virus can then replicate itself.


“Very few research teams have done this – looking at neutralizing antibody responses from people who are currently in the hospital,” Emory virologist and immunologist Mehul S. Suthar, PhD, said in a statement released Emory University. “This study provides a snapshot of the immune response as it is happening, not after the battle is over.”

The researchers believe the Emory antibody test can help researchers select which COVID-19 survivors may be the best choice to donate convalescent plasma to current patients, by evaluating their antibody response.

The test may also help evaluate how volunteers in a COVID-19 vaccine trial are responding to the experimental vaccine, they say.

The findings are published on MedRxiv, a preprint server for health sciences.

They have not been peer-reviewed.

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