A bulletproof immunity! Here is what scientists have discovered and shared in several studies including one released in Science and Nature magazines this past June, explaining some Covid patients – one cured – developed what they call “superhuman” or “bulletproof immunity”.
What does it mean? It means some patients are likely to produce very high levels of antibodies fit to fight against the virus and all variants spreading across the world, as well as against variants likely to outbreak in the coming months or years. A “hybrid” immunity, as immunologist Shane Crotty explained to our NPR peers. He says it enables them to resist to all sort of Covid strains, as corroborated by Rockefeller University virologist Paul Bieniasz.
“One could reasonably predict that these people will be quite well protected against most — and perhaps all of — the SARS-CoV-2 variants that we are likely to see in the foreseeable future”, he specifies. In a study released this past month in pre-print on BioXRiv, the searcher and his team have discovered antibodies in these individuals likely to strongly neutralize the six most preoccupying variants including the beta and delta variants, as well as several other SARS-CoV-2-related virus: one in bats, two in pangolins, and one that caused the first coronavirus pandemic, the SARS-CoV-1, among others.
“This is being a bit more speculative, but I would also suspect that they would have some degree of protection against the SARS-like viruses that have yet to infect humans," Bieniasz goes on.
Who are these people with superhuman immunity? Those who have experienced a “hybrid” exposure to the virus, that is to say, they have been infected by coronavirus in 2020 then immunized with mRNA vaccines this year. “Those people have amazing responses to the vaccine," says virologist Theodora Hatziioannou at Rockefeller University. She goes on: “I think they are in the best position to fight the virus. The antibodies in these people's blood can even neutralize SARS-CoV-1, the first coronavirus, which emerged 20 years ago. That virus is very, very different from SARS-CoV-2."
These antibodies are able to deactivate strains of the virus created to be very resistant to neutralization. It shows then the very potential of mRNA vaccines. But all these people in this situation have not necessarily developed “hybrid” immunity or immunity this effective: “We've only studied the phenomena with a few patients because it's extremely laborious and difficult research to do”. A situation that could yet be likely rather common: “With every single one of the patients we studied, we saw the same thing”, she explains.