Considerable escape of SARS-CoV-2 Omicron to antibody neutralization

Nature. 2021 Dec 23. doi: 10.1038/s41586-021-04389-z. Online ahead of print.


The SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant was first identified in November 2021 in Botswana and South Africa1-3. It has since then spread to many countries and is expected to rapidly become dominant worldwide. The lineage is characterized by the presence of about 32 mutations in the spike, located mostly in the N-terminal domain (NTD) and the receptor binding domain (RBD), which may enhance viral fitness and allow antibody evasion. Here, we isolated an infectious Omicron virus in Belgium, from a traveller returning from Egypt. We examined its sensitivity to 9 monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) clinically approved or in development4, and to antibodies present in 115 sera from COVID-19 vaccine recipients or convalescent individuals. Omicron was totally or partially resistant to neutralization by all mAbs tested. Sera from Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine recipients, sampled 5 months after complete vaccination, barely inhibited Omicron. Sera from COVID-19 convalescent patients collected 6 or 12 months post symptoms displayed low or no neutralizing activity against Omicron. Administration of a booster Pfizer dose as well as vaccination of previously infected individuals generated an anti-Omicron neutralizing response, with titers 6 to 23 fold lower against Omicron than against Delta. Thus, Omicron escapes most therapeutic monoclonal antibodies and to a large extent vaccine-elicited antibodies. Omicron remains however neutralized by antibodies generated by a booster vaccine dose.