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Pandemic Preparedness Capabilities

Monitoring the Swedish population-level neutralisation of current and emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants (SwedN)

PI(s)/Head responsible for the resource:

Ben Murrell

Host organisation(s):

Karolinska Institutet

Resource description:

From an overwhelming array of evidence from clinical trials, observational studies, and animal models, the most reliable correlate of protection from SARS-CoV-2 infection, and from severe disease, is neutralising antibody potency. With potent neutralising antibodies against a circulating SARS-CoV-2 variant, the individual is less likely to be infected and less likely to develop severe disease if infected.

While large amounts of money are spent on virus sequencing to monitor circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants, it is difficult to convert this “variant prevalence” information into an assessment of risk without knowing the distribution of antibody responses against these circulating variants. As our recent widely-publicised results have shown, this can be exceptionally population specific: substantial cross-neutralisation of Omicron BA.1, for example, was far more common in a random cohort of Swedish blood donors, and even more so in infected-then-vaccinated Swedish hospital workers, than it was in twice-vaccinated cohorts from other countries. The population-specific “exposure history”, including the extent of vaccination and the distribution of infection rates with various variants, strongly influences the breadth and potency of antibody responses.

Thus, there is an unacknowledged public health gap: SARS-CoV-2 neutralisation surveillance. If we know how susceptible the population is, on average, to the set of variants that is likely to emerge (or in the process of emerging) in the next wave, we can make data-driven population-specific recommendations about additional booster vaccinations and additional precautions, and whether they are likely to be needed or not.

Here we propose to use our already well-established SARS-CoV-2 pseudovirus (PSV) neutralisation platform to address this gap, providing ongoing near-real-time monitoring of population-level antibody potency against a spectrum of SARS-CoV-2 variants in local populations.

Contact information:

Ben Murrell
Assistant Professor