Llamas may hold the key to coronavirus cure

llamas’ antibodies stave off diseases more effectively than humans despite only being a quarter of the size.

By Aaron Sull, World Israel News

The coronavirus pandemic is believed to originate from bats and now some researchers believe another species of animal may hold the cure — llamas

According to a new study published in the journal “Cell” on Tuesday, researchers from the University of Texas at Austin, the National Institutes of Health, and Ghent University in Belgium discovered that the antibodies of a four-year old llama successfully fended off the coronavirus six weeks after it was injected with the disease.

Winter, a dark-brown Llama, who lives in a Belgium research facility along with 140 other llamas, was used in the past to develop treatments for the SARS and MERS viruses back when she was only nine months old. Winter’s antibodies were so effective in fighting off the viruses that researchers turned to llamas to develop a workable vaccine for them.

Jason McLellan, an associate professor of molecular biosciences at UT Austin and co-senior author of the study, believes a potential llama-based coronavirus vaccine would be equally effective as the ones made to fight off SARS and MERS.

“Immediately after treatment, they should be protected,” McLellan said in a statement. “The antibodies could also be used to treat somebody who is already sick to lessen the severity of the disease.”

The research team is now preparing to conduct pre-clinical trials on hamsters with the hope of eventually testing on humans within a year.

llamas and other members of the camel family have often been targeted for antibody research, because their antibodies stave off diseases more effectively than humans despite only being a quarter of the size and its molecular sequence can easily be modified.

“There is still a lot of work to do to try to bring this into the clinic,” Xavier Saelens, a molecular virologist at Ghent University in Belgium and co-author of the study, told The New Times .”If it works, llama Winter deserves a statue.”