Llamas might save the World from Novel Coronavirus

According to experts, llamas can prove to be a key in treating COVID-19 positive patients. The antibodies found in llamas known as ‘nanobodies’ (due to their smaller size) have the ability to fight off coronavirus. A study conducted Rosalind Franklin Institute in Oxford University tested antibodies derived from llamas and announced that they have been shown to neutralise the SARS-CoV-2 virus in lab tests.

Llamas, camels and alpacas naturally produce quantities of small antibodies with a simpler structure that can be turned into nanobodies. The team of Rosalind Franklin Institute engineered the new nanobodies using a collection of antibodies taken from llama blood cells. They have shown that the nanobodies bind tightly to the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, blocking it from entering human cells and stopping infection.

How llama antibodies could help treat COVID-19?

(Image Courtesy: BBC)

The entire world is now aware of the essential role played antibodies in increasing the immune system. Till now no vaccine has made its way to fight against COVID-19, and injecting antibodies is the only way to treat people. However, there is already evidence that antibody-rich blood, taken from people who have recently recovered from the coronavirus, can be used as a treatment, which is widely known as “Plasma Therapy”. But the key trick with this llama-derived antibody therapy is that the scientists can produce coronavirus-specific antibodies to order.

“In the lab, we can make nanobodies that kill the live virus extremely well – better than almost anything we’ve seen,…They’re incredibly good at killing the virus in culture.”
Professor James Naismith, Director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute

The nanobodies kill the virus binding or locking onto – what is known as the “spike protein” on the outside of the virus capsule; disabling it from gaining access to human cells.

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