Could llamas be our saviours in the fight against COVID-19?While this opening line probably made you smile, it’s worth knowing that it is actually the premise behind some very serious research that is currently being carried out by American and Belgian scientists.
What sparked this research?
This research involving llamas didn’t just come out of nowhere. In fact, it is the continuation of research that was first carried out in 2016 in Belgium on other strains of the coronavirus. At the time, scientists were trying to find a way to cure certain diseases. But as these diseases disappeared, the research consequently died down.
When COVID-19 appeared, scientists started their research back up again. They are very hopeful that, with this research, they will soon find a solution to the pandemic. Although, it seems vaccines may be the real saviour there.
A serious premise
The results of their study were fully disclosed in a scientific journal named Cell. According to this initial study report, llamas might actually be carrying the antibodies needed to block and counter COVID-19.
How does it work?
To put it simply - let’s imagine that SARS-COV2, which causes COVID-19, has managed to enter human cells and is multiplying there. In order to do this, it relies on an advanced protein which functions sort of like a crowbar to force its way past the body’s barriers and defences to get into our cells.
Certain antibodies produced by llamas are said to work like a ‘super lock’ and prevent intruders from entering the body. As a result, they would also stop humans from becoming contaminated.
Scientists say they have been able to isolate these antibodies, which is allowing them to carry out extensive testing and which could lead to human trials.
What about human beings?
Jason McLellan, one of the researchers from the University of Texas and main authors of the study, explains:
With antibody therapies, you’re directly giving somebody the protective antibodies and so, immediately after treatment, they should be protected.
While these results are theoretically a step in the right direction for putting an end to the scourge that is COVID-19, in practice, it is quite a different matter. The question that arises first is whether these antibodies produced by llamas could actually do the same job when transferred to human bodies.
To find out for sure, more extensive research in the lab is needed but researchers seem quite enthusiastic. We're betting that this is the answer we’ve been waiting for!