Since its first report in the Middle East in 2012, the Middle East respiratory syndrome-coronavirus (MERS-CoV) has become a global concern due to the high morbidity and mortality of individuals infected with the virus. Although the majority of MERS-CoV cases have been reported
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Since its first report in the Middle East in 2012, the Middle East respiratory syndrome-coronavirus (MERS-CoV) has become a global concern due to the high morbidity and mortality of individuals infected with the virus. Although the majority of MERS-CoV cases have been reported in Saudi Arabia, the overall risk in areas outside the Middle East remains significant as inside Saudi Arabia. Additional pandemics of MERS-CoV are expected, and thus novel tools and reagents for therapy and diagnosis are urgently needed. Here, we used phage display to develop novel monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) that target MERS-CoV. A human Fab phage display library was panned against the S2 subunit of the MERS-CoV spike protein (MERS-S2P), yielding three unique Fabs (S2A3, S2A6, and S2D5). The Fabs had moderate apparent affinities (Half maximal effective concentration (EC50
= 123–421 nM) for MERS-S2P, showed no cross-reactivity to spike proteins from other CoVs, and were non-aggregating and thermostable (Tm
= 61.5–80.4 °C). Reformatting the Fabs into IgGs (Immunoglobulin Gs) greatly increased their apparent affinities (KD
= 0.17–1.2 nM), presumably due to the effects of avidity. These apparent affinities were notably higher than that of a previously reported anti-MERS-CoV S2 reference mAb (KD
= 8.7 nM). Furthermore, two of the three mAbs (S2A3 and S2D5) bound only MERS-CoV (Erasmus Medical Center (EMC)) and not other CoVs, reflecting their high binding specificity. However, the mAbs lacked MERS-CoV neutralizing activity. Given their high affinity, specificity, and desirable stabilities, we anticipate that these anti-MERS-CoV mAbs would be suitable reagents for developing antibody-based diagnostics in laboratory or hospital settings for point-of-care testing.