We May Need a New Defense Against New COVID Variants
At the end of 2022, the European Medicines Agency's Emergency Task Force warned European regulatory bodies, governments, and doctors that monoclonal antibodies authorized for COVID-19 are unlikely to be effective against emerging strains of SARS-CoV-2. Antiviral drugs remain available but have many limitations. And, of course, there are still vaccines, which can significantly reduce (but not remove) the risk of severe cases and decrease the number of deaths, although they have lost the efficacy that they once had in countering the original virus.
Research therefore continues. Immunologists continue to search for new targets to synthesize broadly neutralizing monoclonal antibodies for treating or preventing the infection. These results could also lead to new vaccines that induce longer-lasting immunity not only against the thousands of subvariants and recombinant versions of SARS-CoV-2 being identified around the world, but also possibly against other coronaviruses that could emerge in the coming years. A study conducted at Stanford and published in the journal Science Translational Medicine has afforded a glimmer of hope by discovering the broadly neutralizing efficacy of some antibodies produced by macaque monkeys in response to vaccination with AS03 (squalene)‑adjuvanted monovalent subunit vaccines.