Antibodies from llama blood can protect against COVID, future and other corona viruses

Aside from the vaccine, one of the main reasons for the decline in COVID deaths since the pandemic began is the development of effective treatments. Doctors and nurses are better equipped to help patients hospitalized with a severe case of the virus, reducing hospital stays and relieving pressure on a strained medical system. And over time, better and more effective treatments are being discovered—and sometimes in very surprising places.

Such is the case with some new research led by a team at Mount Sinai Hospital, which discovered a powerful “superimmunity” particle in the blood of llamas. Yes, you read that right: llama blood. The same creatures known for chewing the cud, spitting at tourists, and being voiced by David Spade.

In a study published today in the journal cell reports, The researchers found evidence that tiny immune molecules in llamas, known as nanobodies, could help develop an inhalable antiviral drug for COVID patients that could serve as a fast-acting treatment for the pandemic. In addition, research suggests that it protects against it everyone COVID variant – meaning we may have a future-proof treatment that will remain effective as the virus evolves.

“We learned that the tiny size of these nanobodies gives them a distinct advantage over a rapidly mutating virus,” said Ian Wilson, a professor of structural biology at Scripps Research in La Jolla, Calif. and a co-author of the study, in a press release. “Specifically, it allows them to penetrate more into the troughs, nooks and crannies of the virus’s surface, thereby attaching to multiple regions to prevent the virus from escaping and mutating.”

Creatures specifically in the biological family camelids including camels, alpacas and llamas are capable of producing tiny antibodies about a tenth the size of a normal antibody. Despite their size, the antibodies are very robust and are very good at attacking disease-causing invaders like the coronavirus. The researchers managed to hack the antibodies and link them together, ensuring they were even more effective against viruses.

“Due to their small size and broad neutralizing activities, these camelid nanobodies are likely to be effective against future variants and outbreaks of SARS-like viruses,” said Yi Shi, associate professor of pharmacological sciences at Mount Sinai and lead author of the study in the release.

Shi added that the antibodies are also able to “protect both the upper and lower respiratory tract from infection,” suggesting they could be an effective drug when combined with vaccines and current antibody treatments.

This study builds on previous research into the awesome superimmune powers of llama blood, which actually arose before the pandemic. However, given the urgency of the pandemic, it makes sense that researchers would want to revisit our woolly mountaineer friend.

However, everyone should keep in mind that this is still in a fairly early stage. Much more research needs to be done to refine and develop an actual treatment. And if the whole horseworm fiasco has taught us anything, it’s that we should avoid jumping to conclusions until the research is complete.

In other words, for the love of all that is sacred, don’t go out and start slaughtering llamas and drinking their blood. That won’t help you. It will do the opposite of helping you. In fact, you could end up cursed like The Emperor’s New Groove and become a llama yourself. Antibodies from llama blood can protect against COVID, future and other corona viruses


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