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What Is the Difference Between Neutralizing and Non-Neutralizing Antibodies?

After an infection, the immune system produces antibodies. This process happens whether the invader is a bacteria (such as typhoid) or a virus, including SARS-COV-2. Antibodies are one of your body’s lines of defense against invaders. Scientists are especially interested in these Y-shaped proteins as they work to develop an effective vaccine against COVID-19.

What Are Neutralizing Antibodies?

During an infection, your B cells are “learning” to recognize pathogens. In response, they can produce different types of antibodies: neutralizing and non-neutralizing antibodies. Neutralizing antibodies block invaders by stopping them from spreading. Sometimes, these helpful antibodies keep pathogens from attaching to your cells at all. They can prevent viruses from changing shape to evade T cells. Neutralizing antibodies are an amazing shield that can stop many harmful attackers in their tracks.

What Are Non-Neutralizing Antibodies?

Non-neutralizing antibodies also recognize and attach to dangerous invaders, but they cannot prevent it from spreading. In a way, non-neutralizing antibodies are like GPS trackers. These proteins signal T cells and other parts of your immune system that there’s a problem, but not deal with it directly. Non-neutralizing antibodies are helpful, but they’re not as powerful for fighting infections as neutralizing antibodies.

Why Are Antibodies Important?

To comprehend the importance of neutralizing antibodies and vaccines, first it’s necessary to understand how immunity works. Your body has several types of cells and proteins designed to destroy pathogens. For example, B cells essentially “memorize” the identity of harmful attackers. If you’re exposed to the same virus or bacteria again, your B cells start to produce antibodies designed specifically to stop it.
Antibodies can block infections from the start or make it easier for the immune system to eliminate foreign particles. Killer T cells destroy compromised cells to prevent the infection from spreading. Working together, your immune system does a wonderful job of responding to new threats, protecting you from old ones, and keeping you healthy.
When a new virus or infection is similar to something you’ve experienced in the past, your immune system may be somewhat effective at fighting against it. This appears to be one reason why some people have only a light infection with the coronavirus, while others experience more pronounced symptoms.

How Do Vaccines Work for Viruses?

Some vaccines use an inactivated version of pathogens to inject into patients. This causes the person’s immune system to develop lasting immunity on its own. Scientists are also studying different antibodies to find one that is most effective at neutralizing SARS-COV-2. They could mass-produce this specific neutralizing antibody and use it in a vaccine.

What Does a COVID-19 Antibody Test Show?

Everyone develops some type of antibodies for a while after infection. One way to check if you’ve been exposed to COVID-19 is to look for these antibodies. Since it takes a while for antibodies to form, this test is mainly used for past detection. If you’re sick right now and want to know if it’s the coronavirus or simply the flu, a viral antigen test is a better choice.
There’s a question of whether people with certain antibodies are immune to getting sick with COVID-19 in the future. If that’s the case, Florida businesses may turn to antibody tests as a kind of “passport” to detect who has already developed an immunity. However, scientists still aren’t sure.
If you’re curious whether you’ve already been exposed to COVID-19, our team can administer a COVID-19 antibody test or viral antigen test at ARCpoint Labs of Fort Myers. We’re also happy to share the latest scientific discoveries related to immunity. Contact us to learn more.