Scientists find exquisitely potent antibodies; a blood test may identify who needs steroids

Scientists have found 19 potent antibodies that "neutralize" the new coronavirus, including nine that exhibit "exquisite potency," according to a study published in Nature.

Compared to previously isolated antibodies, some of the new ones can target different regions of the so-called spike that protrudes from the surface of the virus and helps it infect cells.

"Finding antibodies directed to different regions of the spike allows for more/better possibility of forming antibody cocktails to attach the virus and to avoid viral resistance," Dr. David Ho, Director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center at Columbia University, told Reuters.

Furthermore, the newly found antibodies can be easily generated by the immune system, and potentially be used both to treat and prevent infection, he added.

"An antibody cocktail could be administered to infected patients early in the course of infection, especially if they are elderly or have underlying chronic conditions," Ho said, citing nursing home residents as an example.

A blood test may help identify coronavirus patients who would benefit from steroids early in their illness, researchers said, after a gold-standard trial published last week showed dexamethasone reduced deaths in COVID-19 patients who needed oxygen or mechanical ventilation.