Could llamas be the key to fighting the coronavirus?

Belgian llama named Winter has a certain antibody that can neutralize the dangerous part of a virus. Researchers are studying the antibodies.

By

National News

May 1, 2020 - 4:13 PM

Researchers at the University of Texas, in coordination with the National Institutes of Health and Ghent University in Belgium, this week are publishing a paper about the potential use of antibodies found in llamas to fight the coronavirus. Photo by (Dreamstime/TNS)

AUSTIN, Texas — A Belgian llama named Winter could hold the key to fighting the coronavirus.

Researchers at the University of Texas, in coordination with the National Institutes of Health and Ghent University in Belgium, this week are publishing a paper about the potential use of antibodies found in llamas to fight the coronavirus.

Years ago, when studying two earlier forms of coronavirus, SARS-CoV-1 and MERS-CoV, researchers found a certain antibody in Winter and other llamas could effectively attach itself to and neutralize the viruses’ spike protein, the portion that attacks other healthy cells. The team now has formed a new antibody that shows promise for treating SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, by linking two copies of the llama antibody that worked against the earlier SARS virus. They demonstrated that the new antibody neutralizes viruses displaying spike proteins from SARS-CoV-2 in cell cultures.

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