Role of antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE) in the virulence of SARS-CoV-2 and its mitigation strategies for the development of vaccines and immunotherapies to counter COVID-19

Hum Vaccin Immunother. 2020 Dec 1;16(12):3055-3060. doi: 10.1080/21645515.2020.1796425. Epub 2020 Aug 26.


Coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has become a global threat and death tolls are increasing worldwide. The SARS-CoV-2 though shares similarities with SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, immunopathology of the novel virus is not understood properly. Previous reports from SARS and MERS-CoV documents that preexisting, non-neutralizing or poorly neutralizing antibodies developed as a result of vaccine or infection enhance subsequent infection, a phenomenon called as antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE). Since immunotherapy has been implicated for COVID-19 treatment and vaccine is under development, due consideration has to be provided on ADE to prevent untoward reactions. ADE mitigation strategies like the development of vaccine or immunotherapeutics targeting receptor binding motif can be designed to minimize ADE of SARS-CoV-2 since full-length protein-based approach can lead to ADE as reported in MERS-CoV. The present mini-review aims to address the phenomenon of ADE of SARS-CoV-2 through the lessons learned from SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV and ways to mitigate them so as to develop better vaccines and immunotherapeutics against SARS-CoV-2.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; antibody-dependent enhancement; immunotherapy; mAbs; spike protein; vaccine.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibody-Dependent Enhancement / drug effects
  • Antibody-Dependent Enhancement / immunology*
  • COVID-19 / immunology*
  • COVID-19 / prevention & control
  • COVID-19 Drug Treatment
  • COVID-19 Vaccines / administration & dosage
  • COVID-19 Vaccines / immunology*
  • Drug Development / methods
  • Drug Development / trends*
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy / methods
  • Immunotherapy / trends*
  • SARS-CoV-2 / immunology*
  • SARS-CoV-2 / pathogenicity
  • Virulence / drug effects
  • Virulence / immunology


  • COVID-19 Vaccines