Antibodies from llamas could offer a defense against the COVID-19 coronavirus in the future after researchers found they staved off SARS and MERS viruses, according to a study published the journal Cell.
The researchers focused their study on antibodies from one specific llama named Winter, a four-year-old resident of Belgium.
“In collaboration with our colleagues at Ghent University in Belgium, we vaccinated a 4-year-old llama, named Winter, with the coronavirus spike proteins from the viruses that caused the MERS and SARS outbreaks. From the llama, we were able to isolate two really potently neutralizing antibodies: one directed against MERS, one directed against SARS,” Daniel Wrapp, a co-author of the study, told Vermont Public Radio earlier this week.
Wrapp said his team, who initially began to study Winter’s antibodies in 2016, began writing up the results when the global COVID-19 pandemic hit.
The researchers are now looking at working toward starting clinical trials, with the study’s lead author telling the New York Times that “if it works, llama Winter deserves a statue.”
Researchers hope that their trials could eventually lead to a treatment to help protect those individuals not yet infected, such as frontline healthcare workers.