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Combination of Natural Infection and Vaccination Provides Maximum Protection Against COVID Variants

A combination of vaccination and a naturally acquired infection appears to promote the production of highly effective antibodies against COVID-19 Virus, new research at the University of California has found.

Results published on December 7, 20221 in a refereed journal mbi, raises the possibility that vaccine boosters may be equally effective in improving the ability of antibodies to target multiple types of virus, including the delta variant, which is the now dominant strain, and the recently discovered omicron variant. (The study was conducted before Delta and Omicron came into being, but Dr. Otto Yang, the study’s senior author, said the findings could apply to these and other new variables.)

said Yang, MD, a professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases, microbiology, immunology, and molecular genetics at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine. “This suggests that repeated exposure to the spike protein allows the immune system to continue to improve the antibodies if someone had COVID and was then vaccinated.”

(The spike protein is the part of the virus that attaches to cells, leading to infection.)

Yang said it is not yet known whether the same benefits will accrue to people who have received repeated vaccinations but have not contracted COVID-19.

Researchers compared antibodies in the blood of 15 vaccinated people who had not previously been infected SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, with antibodies caused by infection, in 10 people who had recently had SARS-CoV-2 but had not yet been vaccinated. Several months later, the 10 participants in the last group were vaccinated, and then the researchers reanalyzed their antibodies. Most people in both groups received the Pfizer-BioNTec or Moderna vaccine in two doses.

The scientists evaluated how the antibodies act against a group of spike proteins with different common mutations in the receptor-binding domain, which is the target for antibodies that help neutralize the virus by preventing it from binding to cells.

They found that mutations of the receptor-binding domain reduced the potency of antibodies acquired either by natural infection or vaccination alone, to about the same degree in both groups of people. When previously infected people were vaccinated about a year after natural infection, the effectiveness of their antibodies was maximized to the point that they recognized all of the COVID-19 variants the scientists tested.

“Overall, our findings raise the possibility of overcoming the resistance of SARS-CoV-2 antibody variants by driving further maturation through continued exposure to the antigen via vaccination, even if the vaccine does not present different sequences,” the researchers wrote. They suggest that repeated vaccinations may have the potential to achieve the same thing as vaccination after infection with COVID-19, although more research is needed to address this possibility.

For more information on this research, see Infection Plus Vaccination Yields Better Protection Against COVID-19 Variants.

Reference: “Infection Plus Vaccination Produces Better Antibodies against COVID-19 Variants” By F. Javier Ibarrondo, Christian Hofmann, Ayub Ali, Paul Ayoub, Donald B. Kohn and Otto O. Yang, Dec 7, 2021, Available here. mbi.
DOI: 10.1128 / mBio.02656-21

Other authors of the study are F. Javier Ibarrondo, Christian Hoffmann, Ayoub Ali, Paul Ayoub, and Dr. Donald Kuhn, all from UCLA.

The study was funded by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and several private donors.

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