SARS-CoV-2 501Y.V2 (B.1.351) elicits cross-reactive neutralizing antibodies

bioRxiv. 2021 Mar 11;2021.03.06.434193. doi: 10.1101/2021.03.06.434193. Preprint


Neutralization escape by SARS-CoV-2 variants, as has been observed in the 501Y.V2 (B.1.351) variant, has impacted the efficacy of first generation COVID-19 vaccines. Here, the antibody response to the 501Y.V2 variant was examined in a cohort of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in early 2021 - when over 90% of infections in South Africa were attributed to 501Y.V2. Robust binding and neutralizing antibody titers to the 501Y.V2 variant were detected and these binding antibodies showed high levels of cross-reactivity for the original variant, from the first wave. In contrast to an earlier study where sera from individuals infected with the original variant showed dramatically reduced potency against 501Y.V2, sera from 501Y.V2-infected patients maintained good cross-reactivity against viruses from the first wave. Furthermore, sera from 501Y.V2-infected patients also neutralized the 501Y.V3 (P.1) variant first described in Brazil, and now circulating globally. Collectively these data suggest that the antibody response in patients infected with 501Y.V2 has a broad specificity and that vaccines designed with the 501Y.V2 sequence may elicit more cross-reactive responses.

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