Chinese scientists map out how Omicron evades antibody therapeutics

A staff member tests samples of the COVID-19 inactivated vaccine at a vaccine production plant of China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) in Beijing, capital of China, April 11, 2020. (Photo: Xinhua)

Chinese scientists have mapped out the high-definition spike protein structure of the Omicron variant of the virus that caused the COVID-19 pandemic.

The structure, under microscopy, revealed how Omicron escaped previous antibody therapeutics, said the study published recently in the journal Cell Reports.

The high number of mutations in Omicron's spike protein is considered responsible for the broad immune evasion from existing vaccines and antibody drugs, the researchers from ShanghaiTech University, Nanjing University, and Chongqing Medical University said.

They compared the structures of Omicron, Delta, and wild-type spikes bound to a patient-derived antibody fragment called 510A5, providing direct evidence of where antibody binding and neutralization were weakened by the Omicron mutations, according to the study.

The findings have illustrated how the mutations lead to antibody evasion, said the researchers.

Also, they analyzed the structure of other antibodies previously reported as capable of neutralizing Omicron, revealing their structures as more insusceptible to Omicron variants.

Therefore, the researchers suggested that cocktail antibodies may be more effective clinically in fighting COVID-19.