Research News: Research collaboration shows critically ill COVID-19 patients have normal antibody production


Researchers at Western University and Lawson Health Research Institute have teamed up with local biotech company, Diagnostics Biochem Canada Inc. (DBC), to help better understand COVID-19 and the body’s immune response to the infection.

A recently published study showed that patients with COVID-19 reacted to the infection and produced ample anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, including those who passed away. This finding suggests that blunted immune responses – when there is a lack of antibody production - did not contribute to mortality.

The study followed 28 critically ill patients at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC); 14 who tested positive for COVID-19 and 14 who tested negative. They also followed 14 mildly ill non-hospitalized patients with COVID-19 and 14 healthy controls.

Using antibody tests provided by DBC, the researchers tracked their body’s immune responses and found that all COVID-19 positive patients had a normal antibody response to the infection, even those with poorer outcomes.

“Our previous research showed that in severe cases of COVID-19, the body produces what’s called a cytokine storm, or an intense, initial immune response. However, in this new study, we observed that after a few days and weeks in critical care, the body produced a later, humoral antibody response that is equivalent to what we would expect with any similar infection,” explained Dr. Douglas Fraser, lead researcher from Lawson and Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and Critical Care Physician at LHSC.

Fraser says based on their data, the focus of treatment should shift to combatting the viral load and the body’s more immediate reaction to the infection.

This research was made possible through a collaboration between Lawson, Western and DBC, with DBC providing the serological testing kits.

Analyzing serum antibody levels using a blood test could help improve patient outcomes by allowing early identification of who may require certain treatments, and guide decisions around patient cohorting. In addition, serological testing allows for viral surveillance and its immunity in the community.

London West MP, Kate Young added, “London is once again showing the world that we are leading the way in scientific research into our most pressing health issues. It’s great to see a local business, Diagnostics Biochem Canada Inc., team up with the Lawson Health Research Institute to help better understand Covid-19. Working together they will help us unlock the keys to how Covid-19 impacts the body’s immune system.”

The study, “Critically Ill COVID-19 Patients Exhibit Anti-SARS-CoV-2 Serological Responses,” is published in the journal Pathophysiology.