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Llama antibodies Covid-19

Researchers at EARA member Ghent University, Belgium, have found that antibodies taken from just one llama (pictured) could help to combat Covid-19.

They discovered that two copies of an antibody produced by llamas bind tightly to a protein, called the spike protein, on the coronavirus. This binding prevents the spike protein from performing its normal function, which is to break into host cells thus spreading the virus.

The group now intends to develop a drug and will conduct preclinical research in hamsters before moving onto human clinical trials.

This work, at both Ghent University and VIB, was part of an international collaboration co-led by the University of Texas at Austin, USA, and also included the National Institutes of Health, USA.

"The immune system of a llama has evolved to induce highly specific antibodies, against almost any foreign antigen. It takes a vaccination of a llama and a few technical steps to select antibodies with a desired specificity. This way, we found an antibody that can neutralize SARS-CoV-2 viruses, and that could be used as a drug for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19."

Xavier Saelens - Principal Investigator at VIB-UGent Center for Medical Biotechnology

Image depicting a brown llama named Winter from the VIB-UGhent centre
Winter, the llama used for the study

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