The hunt for an effective treatment for COVID-19 has led one team of researchers to an unlikely ally: a llama named Winter and her antibodies…
The researchers linked two copies of a special kind of antibody produced by llamas to create a new antibody that binds tightly to a key protein on the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. This protein, called the spike protein, allows the virus to break into host cells. Initial tests indicate that the antibody blocks viruses that display this spike protein from infecting cells in culture.
“This is one of the first antibodies known to neutralize SARS-CoV-2,” says Jason McLellan, associate professor of molecular biosciences at the University of Texas at Austin and co-senior author, referring to the virus that causes COVID-19.
The team is now preparing to conduct preclinical studies in animals such as hamsters or nonhuman primates, with the hopes of next testing in humans. The goal is to develop a treatment that would help people soon after infection with the virus.
“Vaccines have to be given a month or two before infection to provide protection,” McLellan says. “With antibody therapies, you’re directly giving somebody the protective antibodies and so, immediately after treatment, they should be protected. The antibodies could also be used to treat somebody who is already sick to lessen the severity of the disease.”
Read on, my friends. Our society dotes on awarding laurels to champions. In addition to the scientists leading the fight against COVID-19, I suggest thanks also be awarded to the critters who test and trial and help us all to survive.