COVID-19: Llama antibodies usable for treatment?

COVID-19: Llama antibodies usable for treatment?

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Protection from COVID-19 by llamas?

Llamas could help combat the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in a special way. The antibodies of the animals may be the key to the development of an antibody therapy against SARS-CoV-2 according to a recent study.

The current study at the University of Texas at Austin found that the antibodies from Lamas could be used to combat SARS-CoV-2. It also seems to be possible to use it if you already have COVID-19. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "Cell".

Research group creates new antibody

In the study, the researchers combined two copies of a special type of antibody that llamas produce to create a new antibody. This binds closely to a key protein (spike protein) of the coronavirus, which enables the virus to penetrate into host cells. Initial tests indicate that the antibody prevents viruses containing this spike protein from infecting cell cultures.

Preclinical studies on other animals are in preparation

This is one of the first antibodies known to neutralize SARS-CoV-2, the researchers report. The team is now preparing to conduct preclinical studies on animals such as hamsters or non-human primates. Hopefully, human tests can then be carried out in the near future, the researchers report. The aim is to develop a treatment that helps people quickly after being infected with the virus.

Antibody therapy can protect against and alleviate illness

Vaccines have to be given a month or two before infection to provide protection, but the protective antibodies are given directly to antibody therapies, the research group explains. Therefore, the treated person benefits from a protective effect immediately after the treatment. The researchers also report that the antibodies could be used to treat people who are already sick, thereby reducing the severity of the disease.

Many people would benefit from immediate protection

This would be particularly helpful for vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, who have a moderate response to vaccines, which may mean that their protection may be incomplete. Healthcare workers and others at increased risk of exposure to viruses may also benefit from immediate protection.

To protect against bacteria, llamas produce various antibodies

When the immune system of llamas detects foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses, these animals produce two types of antibodies. One of these types resembles human antibodies. The other type of antibody is particularly small.

Antibodies interesting for drugs against respiratory pathogens

The research group explains that these smaller so-called single-domain antibodies or nanobodies can be used in an inhaler, for example. This makes these antibodies very interesting for a potential drug against respiratory pathogens because they can be brought directly to the site of the infection.

Lama was infected with viruses

The lama called Winter, used by the researchers, is four years old and lives on a farm in the Belgian countryside with around 130 other llamas and alpacas. The animal was about nine months old at the time of the research. The study examined two previous coronaviruses: SARS-CoV-1 and MERS-CoV. Similar to people who had to be vaccinated against a virus, stabilized spike proteins of these viruses were injected into the llama over the course of about six weeks.

Antibody bound to spike protein

The research group next took a blood sample and isolated antibodies that bound to each version of the spike protein. One of the antibodies appeared very promising and prevented viruses of the SARS-CoV-1 genus from infecting cell cultures.

Results could be of great importance nowadays

At that time there was no great need for treatment of coronaviruses. The research was designed as basic research, but the results may now be of significantly greater importance, the researchers report.

Summary of the research work:

The team developed the new antibody, which is promising for the treatment of the current SARS-CoV-2, by linking two copies of the Lama antibody, which acted against the previous SARS virus. The new antibody was shown to be equally effective against SARS-CoV-2 in the cell cultures. Thanks to years of work on related corona viruses, the researchers were able to complete and publish their work within just a few weeks. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Daniel Wrapp, Dorien De Vlieger, Kizzmekia S. Corbett, Gretel M. Torres, Nianshuang Wang et al .: Structural Basis for Potent Neutralization of Betacoronavirusesby Single-domain Camelid Antibodies, in Cell (Published April 2020), Cell

Video: Could Llama Antibodies be a possible COVID-19 treatment? (June 2022).


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