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Coronavirus mystery of US fishing boat crew with ‘neutralising antibodies’


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Coronavirus mystery of US fishing boat crew with ‘neutralising antibodies’ | South China Morning Post

A coronavirus outbreak on a Seattle fishing boat may offer scientists insight into immunity

However, the research does not necessarily show people cannot catch Covid-19 twice

Three crew of a Seattle fishing boat who were found to have antibodies able to neutralise the new coronavirus remained uninfected in an outbreak that swept through the ship, sickening most people on board, researchers have reported.

The small real-world study, which has not been peer-reviewed, is among the first in humans to suggest a link between neutralising antibodies – those that stop the virus latching onto host cells – and protection from infection.

Researchers from the University of Washington and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle screened 120 of 122 people before they boarded the ‘American Dynasty’ fishing vessel in May, testing both for active virus and for antibodies in the blood that would indicate a previous or ongoing infection.
None of the crew tested positive for the virus, but six had some antibodies and of those, three had evidence of neutralising antibodies.

More than two weeks after the boat set sail, it returned to shore with an infected crew member who needed hospital treatment.

Researchers then tested all the crew over several weeks and found that 85 per cent – 104 crew members – were infected.
But none of the three with neutralising antibodies tested positive, nor did they report any symptoms during the outbreak.

“Therefore, the presence of neutralising antibodies from prior infection was significantly associated with protection against reinfection,” the authors of the study said.
American Seafoods, which owns the ship, said the company had partnered with the University of Washington on its testing programme.
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“We hope that their study will be beneficial to the broader scientific community in learning more about Covid-19,” said Valentina Zackrone, chief human resources officer at American Seafoods, according to The Seattle Times.

Scientists have not been able to run direct human tests to find out about the protection conferred by neutralising antibodies, because of ethical concerns over potential severity and long term impacts of the virus, the study authors said.
Of all of the areas of science I've studied, immunology has been the most difficult.
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