SARS-CoV-2 Omicron neutralization by therapeutic antibodies, convalescent sera, and post-mRNA vaccine booster

bioRxiv. 2021 Dec 28;2021.12.22.473880. doi: 10.1101/2021.12.22.473880. Preprint


The rapid spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 along with its high number of mutations in the spike gene has raised alarm about the effectiveness of current medical countermeasures. To address this concern, we measured neutralizing antibodies against Omicron in three important settings: (1) post-vaccination sera after two and three immunizations with the Pfizer/BNT162b2 vaccine, (2) convalescent sera from unvaccinated individuals infected by different variants, and (3) clinical-stage therapeutic antibodies. Using a pseudovirus neutralization assay, we found that titers against Omicron were low or undetectable after two immunizations and in most convalescent sera. A booster vaccination significantly increased titers against Omicron to levels comparable to those seen against the ancestral (D614G) variant after two immunizations. Neither age nor sex were associated with differences in post-vaccination antibody responses. Only three of 24 therapeutic antibodies tested retained their full potency against Omicron and high-level resistance was seen against fifteen. These findings underscore the potential benefit of booster mRNA vaccines for protection against Omicron and the need for additional therapeutic antibodies that are more robust to highly mutated variants.

One sentence summary: Third dose of Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine significantly boosts neutralizing antibodies to the Omicron variant compared to a second dose, while neutralization of Omicron by convalescent sera, two-dose vaccine-elicited sera, or therapeutic antibodies is variable and often low.

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  • Preprint