Llama antibodies could help in treating coronavirus, study claims

At the time when scientists globally are struggling to find a solution to treat novel coronavirus, a study has claimed that antibodies found in llamas could be useful.

The researchers led by Jason McLellan from the Department of Molecular Biosciences at The University of Texas at Austin (UTA) created a new antibody, a type of protein produced by animal immune systems that fight foreign invaders, which binds tightly to a key protein found on the coronavirus.

These are the “first antibodies known to neutralise Sars-CoV-2”, wrote McLellan in the press release of the study.

“The antibodies could also be used to treat somebody who is already sick to lessen the severity of the disease,” he said.

Journal Cell will publish the study that has linked together two copies of a special kind of antibody found in llamas.

The researchers have been working on coronaviruses and in 2016 injected on a four-year-old Winter, a llama with SARS and MERS. The antibodies produced helped in targetting SARS virus’s spike proteins, which allows it to stick with human cells.

They did a similar experiment, again on Winter, with COVID-19 this year to see the result. The antibodies did bind itself, but it did so “weekly”. So, the team linked two copies of the antibody together for an effective result.

However, the team is preparing for more trials with hamsters or primates to further test the study, before applying it to humans.