Prospective mapping of viral mutations that escape antibodies used to treat COVID-19

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Science  19 Feb 2021:
Vol. 371, Issue 6531, pp. 850-854
DOI: 10.1126/science.abf9302

Mapping antibody escape in SARS-CoV-2

Several antibodies are in use or under development as therapies to treat COVID-19. As new severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) variants emerge, it is important to predict whether they will remain susceptible to antibody treatment. Starr et al. used a yeast library that covers all mutations to the SARS-CoV-2 receptor-binding domain that do not strongly disrupt binding to the host receptor (ACE2) and mapped how these mutations affect binding to three leading anti–SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. The maps identify mutations that escape antibody binding, including a single mutation that escapes both antibodies in the Regeneron antibody cocktail. Many of the mutations that escape single antibodies are circulating in the human population.

Science, this issue p. 850


Antibodies are a potential therapy for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), but the risk of the virus evolving to escape them remains unclear. Here we map how all mutations to the receptor binding domain (RBD) of SARS-CoV-2 affect binding by the antibodies in the REGN-COV2 cocktail and the antibody LY-CoV016. These complete maps uncover a single amino acid mutation that fully escapes the REGN-COV2 cocktail, which consists of two antibodies, REGN10933 and REGN10987, targeting distinct structural epitopes. The maps also identify viral mutations that are selected in a persistently infected patient treated with REGN-COV2 and during in vitro viral escape selections. Finally, the maps reveal that mutations escaping the individual antibodies are already present in circulating SARS-CoV-2 strains. These complete escape maps enable interpretation of the consequences of mutations observed during viral surveillance.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution license, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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