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

by | Dec 23, 2023 | Uncategorized

While COVID-19 is undoubtedly the most famous, it’s not the only coronavirus in history to cause a disruption. Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is another form of coronavirus that can be deadly. It sickened more than 8,000 people around the world in 2002 and 2003 and killed more than 700. Even the common cold, which is very rarely lethal, is a form of coronavirus. Because these viruses have so much in common, researchers are studying whether a single vaccine might protect against more than one of these virus forms.

To understand why this is important, you need to understand the difference between neutralizing and non-neutralizing antibodies. Neutralizing antibodies are those that result from one virus but are capable of disabling another. Non-neutralizing antibodies can protect you against the illness from which they originate, but they cannot neutralize any other kind of virus. 

What Do We Know About Neutralizing and Non-Neutralizing Antibodies?

While research is still in the early stages since the COVID-19 is such a new virus, we know some basic facts about the two types of antibodies. First of all, we know that neutralizing antibodies disable other types of infections in a specific way. They attach to the virus and stop it from entering healthy cells. By comparison, non-neutralizing antibodies attach only to the type of virus from which they came. Rather than inhibiting the virus’s ability to enter another cell, a non-neutralizing antibody marks the virus for destruction. The body’s immune system recognizes the marker and takes action. 

What Don’t We Know About Neutralizing and Non-Neutralizing Antibodies?

Reactions in a petri dish are one thing, but they don’t always hold in the human body. Antibodies could be protective against more than one type of virus in the body, even if they didn’t demonstrate that ability in the lab. Such phenomena have been observed with other illnesses, and if valid, that would be good news.

However, the opposite could also be true. Antibodies from one coronavirus might make other viruses stronger. They could produce other illnesses better able to infect cells and duplicate themselves, a process called antibody-dependent enhancement that has been observed with the virus that causes SARS. Much more research is needed to understand the components of the coronavirus and the antibodies they produce.

 A greater understanding of the SARS and COVID-19 viruses has clear implications for developing a vaccine and effective treatments against the current forms of the illness and others that may develop in the future.

How Does a Lab Test for Antibodies?

In the laboratory environment, scientists use specialized equipment to see how viruses in a specimen behave. One COVID-19 antibody test often used is the Tru-Immune from Ethos Laboratories, which determines whether neutralizing antibodies are present and then evaluates their effectiveness on a scale of zero to 100%. Using that information as a reference point, medical professionals can make an informed decision on when it’s safe for the patient to return to work or school.

How Can I Get Tested for Antibodies?

At ARCpoint Labs of Omaha, we offer various types of COVID-19 antibodies testing. Our team of knowledgeable professionals can help you determine which type of testing is best for you. Once the specimen is collected, you should get your results in three to five days to consult with your healthcare provider about what steps you should take. Contact us today to get started.

Image Credit: Shutterstock/ Akor86

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