Highly Neutralizing COVID-19 Convalescent Plasmas Potently Block SARS-CoV-2 Replication and Pneumonia in Syrian Hamsters

J Virol. 2021 Nov 24;JVI0155121. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01551-21. Online ahead of print.


Despite various attempts to treat SARS-CoV-2-infected patients with COVID-19-convalescent plasmas, neither appropriate approach nor clinical utility has been established. We examined the efficacy of administration of highly-neutralizing COVID-19-convalescent plasma (hn-plasmas) and such plasma-derived IgG administration using the Syrian hamster COVID-19 model. Two hn-plasmas, which were in the best 1% of 340 neutralizing-activity-determined convalescent plasma samples, were intraperitoneally administered to SARS-CoV-2-infected hamsters, resulting in significant reduction of viral titers in lungs by up to 32-fold as compared to the viral titers in hamsters receiving control non-neutralizing plasma, while with two moderately neutralizing plasmas (mn-plasmas) administered, viral titer reduction was by up to 6-fold. IgG fractions purified from the two hn-plasmas also reduced viral titers in lungs than those from the two mn-plasmas. The severity of lung lesions seen in hamsters receiving hn-plasmas was minimal to moderate as assessed using micro-computerized tomography, which histological examination confirmed. Western blotting revealed that all four COVID-19-convalescent-plasmas variably contained antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 components including the receptor-binding domain and S1 domain. The present data strongly suggest that administering potent-neutralizing-activity-confirmed COVID-19-convalescent plasmas would be efficacious in treating patients with COVID-19. Importance Convalescent plasmas obtained from patients, who recovered from a specific infection, have been used as agents to treat other patients infected with the very pathogen. To treat using convalescent plasmas, despite that more than 10 randomized-controlled-clinical-trials have been conducted and more than 100 studies are currently ongoing, the effects of convalescent plasma against COVID-19 remained uncertain. On the other hand, certain COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to reduce the clinical COVID-19 onset by 94-95%, for which the elicited SARS-CoV-2-neutralizing antibodies are apparently directly responsible. Here, we demonstrate that highly-neutralizing-effect-confirmed convalescent plasmas significantly reduce the viral titers in the lung of SARS-CoV-2-infected Syrian hamsters and block the development of virally-induced lung lesions. The present data provide a proof-of-concept that the presence of highly-neutralizing antibody in COVID-19-convalescent plasmas is directly responsible for the reduction of viral replication and support the use of highly-neutralizing antibody-containing plasmas in COVID-19 therapy with convalescent plasmas.