The development of prophylactic and therapeutic agents for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a current global health priority. Here, we investigated the presence of cross-neutralizing antibodies against severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in dromedary camels that were Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS)-CoV-seropositive but MERS-CoV-free. The tested 229 dromedaries had anti-MERS-CoV camel antibodies with variable cross-reactivity patterns against SARS-CoV-2 proteins, including the S trimer, M, N, and E proteins. Using SARS-CoV-2 competitive immunofluorescence immunoassays and pseudovirus neutralization assays, we found medium-to-high titers of cross-neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 in these animals. Through linear B cell epitope mapping using phage immunoprecipitation sequencing and a SARS-CoV-2 peptide/proteome microarray, we identified a large repertoire of betacoronavirus cross-reactive antibody specificities in these dromedaries and demonstrated that the SARS-CoV-2-specific VHH antibody repertoire is qualitatively diverse. This analysis revealed not only several SARS-CoV-2 epitopes that are highly immunogenic in humans, including a neutralizing epitope, but also epitopes exclusively targeted by camel antibodies. The identified SARS-CoV-2 cross-neutralizing camel antibodies are not proposed as a potential treatment for COVID-19. Rather, their presence in non-immunized camels supports the development of SARS-CoV-2 hyperimmune camels, which could be a prominent source of therapeutic agents for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19.
Lotfi Chouchane, Jean-Charles Grivel, Elmoubasher Farag, Igor Pavlovski, Selma Maacha, Abbirami Sathappan, Hamad Al-Romaihi, Sirin Abuaqel, Manar Ata, Aouatef Ismail Chouchane, Sami Remadi, Najeeb M. Halabi, Arash Rafii, Mohammed Al-Thani, Nico Marr, Murugan Subramanian, Jingxuan Shan