Shark Immunity May Protect Humans Against Coronavirus

Soon the third year, as the world lives in conditionspandemic, but there is still no end in sight. Scientists continue to look for an effective remedy that will help fight the virus with all its mutations. Fortunately, some success has already been achieved in this direction. Earlier, I said that antibodies have been isolated that are effective against any strains. Recently, another positive information came in - scientists have discovered shark antibodies that are able to effectively fight coronavirus. They prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2, all mutations of this virus, as well as other coronaviruses. This is reported by scientists from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. However, it is impossible to use shark proteins, called VNARs, right away. However, they can help fight the disease in the future, in addition, they will help prepare for outbreaks of other types of coronavirus, which may well arise in a similar way to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shark immune system effectively fights coronaviruses

Shark immune proteins block coronavirus

VNARs are small immune proteinswhich are one-tenth the size of a human protein. An international team of scientists has identified several of the most effective shark VNAR proteins capable of fighting SARS-CoV-2. They turned out to be more effective than human immune proteins, as they bind to areas of the coronavirus atypical for this.

“These small antibody-like proteins canpenetrate the nooks and crannies of the virus that human antibodies cannot reach, ”says Aaron LeBeau, professor of pathology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

To identify the most effective VNAR proteinssharks, the authors of the work tested them not only for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, but also for the "pseudotype", that is, a version of the virus that is unable to divide in cells. As a result, they managed to find three VNAR candidates out of half a billion proteins. All of them effectively protected human cells from infection. Moreover, they also showed effectiveness against SARS-CoV-1, which caused an outbreak of SARS in 2003.

Shark antibodies have been shown to be effective against MERS, SARS-CoV-1, SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses

One of the proteins, called 3B4,able to attach to the groove on the spike protein of the virus. Apparently, this prevents the virus from entering the cell. This groove is similar in all coronaviruses. As a result, 3B4 is able to neutralize even the MERS virus, which is a distant relative of SARS. The groove also remains unchanged across different strains of SARS-CoV-2, including Delta. True, the study, published in Nature, was carried out even before the Omicron strain appeared. But, presumably, the protein should remain effective against it as well.

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The second protein, named 2C02, is able to block the spike protein in an inactive form. However, in some variants of SARS-CoV-2, it is slightly modified, which most likely reduces its effectiveness.

Shark Antibody Drugs May Help Avoid Future Coronavirus Pandemics

Shark antibodies

As the researchers suggest, for treatmentcoronavirus, a cocktail of such proteins will be used, which will ensure the highest efficiency. This will be a new class of drugs that are cheaper and easier to manufacture than drugs based on human antibodies. They can be delivered to the human body in different ways.

The drug can be useful, primarily forimmunocompromised people who do not respond to vaccinations. In parallel, scientists are also exploring the possibility of using VNAR shark for the treatment and diagnosis of oncology. However, the proteins of shark antibodies, or rather drugs based on them, have not yet been clinically tested. Therefore, they will not be available soon. It is possible that the pandemic will be over by the time such drugs appear.

Potentially dangerous coronaviruses circulating among bats that can infect human cells

What coronaviruses threaten humanity in the future

Researchers point out thatshark immune proteins are effective against the WIV1-CoV virus. This is another coronavirus that can infect human cells. It still circulates exclusively among bats. Let me remind you that presumably it was bats that became the source of SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19.

“The big problem is that there are a number ofcoronaviruses that are about to appear in humans. We are preparing an arsenal of VNAR shark therapies that can be used in the future for future SARS outbreaks, ”says Professor Aaron LeBeau.

Early development of drugs for suchviruses will help to avoid future pandemics similar to the current one. In addition, viruses similar to SARS-CoV-2 are common in bats. So far, they cannot infect people, but if they cross with the virus that causes COVID-19, a new, dangerous variant of the coronavirus may appear.