‘My Super-Antibodies Can Defeat Any COVID Variant’

It was a bit of after 5 p.m. on Wednesday, July 22, 2020, once I acquired the cellphone name of a lifetime.

On the opposite finish of the road was Dr. Lance Liotta, the George Mason University researcher who was calling to not solely inform me that I had unknowingly contracted COVID-19 again in late March, however that I possessed extraordinarily uncommon “super” antibodies in my blood that had killed the virus and rendered me completely proof against the dreaded killer of properly north of a half million Americans, and greater than 2.6 million individuals general. These “super” antibodies had been so potent that they nonetheless killed 90 % of the virus even after my blood had been diluted 10,000 occasions. In addition, these life-saving, inner protection mechanisms stay extremely concentrated in my blood even now, lengthy after the virus had been utterly eradicated.

How’s that for immediately consuming from the fireplace hose?

The remainder of humanity was gripped with a palpable sense of concern and rising panic over a murderous pandemic that was spreading unchecked all around the globe like a runaway locomotive, destroying lives and ravaging the worldwide economic system alongside the best way.

And I’d simply been instructed that I used to be an outlier of epic proportions and utterly impervious to it.

“So let me just make sure I got this straight,” I lastly mustered after asking Dr. Liotta to repeat himself a number of occasions. “You’re telling me I’m immune to a virus that is now killing thousands of Americans per day. Is that what I’m hearing you say?”
Dr. Liotta, who’s the co-director and the co-founder of Mason’s Center for Applied Proteomics and Molecular Medicine (CAPMM) and the previous deputy director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), confirmed that I had certainly heard him accurately.

I used to be too surprised to say a lot else of consequence at that second and started making an attempt the perfect I may to one way or the other soak up what I’d simply been instructed. This was past surreal, and there have been quickly 1,000,000 questions racing via my head following the preliminary shock.

Why me? How was that I had one way or the other been spared when so many different individuals hadn’t? How sure was Dr. Liotta and his analysis group of what I used to be being instructed? How was it that I NEVER for one second thought I had it? Could I’ve contracted the virus whereas touring in Europe with my teenage son earlier in March? Had he been uncovered to it as properly if I had been contaminated whereas we had been collectively in London and Paris? Does this imply I can merely simply give my blood to any person sick from the virus and it could assist them?

“Your blood is very effective at eliminating the virus,” Dr. Liotta instructed me.
I’m undecided what particularly I had anticipated once I had volunteered just some days earlier to contribute to his antibody research of George Mason University individuals who had already examined constructive for COVID-19 or suspected that they had been uncovered.

But it is secure to say this wasn’t it.

I did not realize it on the time, however my unlikely story had begun after turning into closely congested to start out the final week of March 2020. I had NO different signs by any means in addition to repeatedly having to blow my nostril. Pollen was in all places that point of yr as per normal, so I simply naturally attributed my sudden nasal points to that. I loaded up on Benadryl and was feeling 100% once more by week’s finish 4 days later. There was by no means as a lot as a single thought that I had contracted COVID-19.

John Hollis.
Ron Aira/George Mason University

I quickly discovered in any other case.

The George Mason antibody research, which started in April, was distinctive in that it was a saliva-based check moderately a blood-based one and would finally be used to display college students, college and workers. Mason was among the many nation’s first universities to take this strategy within the struggle in opposition to the unfold of the virus and maintains one of many solely 13 National Institutes of Health-sponsored Biosafety Level 3 Biomedical Research Laboratories geared up to deal with dwell COVID-19 samples from which Dr. Liotta and his group may rapidly check.

As George Mason University’s Communications Manager, I had acquired phrase in mid-July that the scientists had come throughout some constructive preliminary outcomes.
I quickly met with Dr. Liotta at his workplace on George Mason’s Science and Technology Campus in Manassas, Virginia to debate their findings. I’ve identified him for a couple of years now after having beforehand labored with him on different tasks, so we have had an excellent relationship for some time. I used to be about to go away his workplace once I casually talked about to Dr. Liotta that the man I lived with had grow to be terribly sick with the virus in early April. I had been so sure at the moment {that a} comparable destiny or worse additionally awaited me that I even penned a letter to my teenage son simply in case. I thought of myself extremely fortunate to have gone unscathed.

Or so I believed on the time.

So I figured there was no hurt in asking if I may be part of the a number of hundred volunteers who had already participated within the research. Dr. Liotta agreed and I returned a couple of days later to provide blood and saliva samples as a late addition to the analysis. The entire course of took perhaps half-hour.

The medical equal of the Holy Grail

I used to be nonetheless of the assumption that I had one way or the other dodged the bullet again in April and by no means even thought of that I might need already contracted the virus, not to mention that it might have been I who handed it on to my housemate. I had no cause to anticipate something by any means coming of my lab outcomes.

But after additional cautious evaluation of my blood, Dr. Liotta and his group quickly confirmed that I had contracted an American pressure of the virus whereas additionally explaining to me precisely how and the place the “super” antibodies had attacked and fully eradicated the virus from my physique. My blood has since confirmed equally as efficient in killing each totally different pressure of COVID-19, together with the newest extremely transmissible variants from each the U.Okay. and South Africa. I can not even be a service for the virus.

I’ve been instructed that is considerably akin to the medical equal of discovering the Holy Grail.

I used to be one in all eight individuals who participated within the research discovered to have “super” antibodies, with every particular person displaying various ranges of pure safety from the virus. In addition to its means to so successfully neutralize COVID-19, my blood is exclusive as a result of the “super” antibodies in it have remained extremely concentrated almost a yr after my an infection. Most individuals’s antibodies usually wane considerably after 60 to 90 days.

How and why my physique does this stays the million greenback query, but it surely implies that I and others like me are best-suited to presumably assist scientists mass reproduce antibodies like mine within the hopes of making a therapy for COVID-19 and an enduring and much more practical vaccine.

It’s been sobering to suppose that my blood and that of others like me may doubtlessly save 1000’s of lives or maybe extra.

So then think about the irony of my having been randomly chosen seven occasions for COVID testing between late September 2020 and March 2021. Each of the events—all with adverse outcomes—had been a part of George Mason University’s complete Safe Return to Campus plan. It’s made for some good laughs and I’ve by no means as soon as minded the very slight inconvenience. It’s like taking a check once you’ve been given all of the solutions upfront.

I’ve been very lucky and really feel blessed past measure.

Nevertheless, I proceed to take each precaution comparable to sporting masks, frequently washing and sanitizing my palms and sustaining correct social distance. I’m a former sportswriter, so there’s at all times an acceptable sports activities analogy useful and I’ve likened this distinctive scenario to having a no-hitter going into the ninth inning of a baseball sport. I plan to proceed doing what I’ve been doing all alongside.

Still, it stays loads to digest, even within the months which have handed since I first grew to become conscious of this beautiful information. I’m undecided the place I’d be with out my cadre of shut mates from highschool and school who’ve helped me keep sane.
I’ve lengthy preached to my son that all of us share a accountability to make the world a greater place than it was after we arrived. Never in 1,000,000 years may I’ve envisioned this being how I’d assist do exactly that.

John Hollis is the Communications Manager at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA.

The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal.

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