Researchers publish paper about possible use of llama antibodies to fight coronavirus

Researchers publish paper about possible use of llama antibodies to fight coronavirus
© Getty Images

Researchers published a paper on Tuesday that looks into the use of llama antibodies to treat COVID-19.

In a joint study with the University of Texas, the National Institutes of Health and Ghent University in Belgium, researchers published their findings to an academic journal "Cell."

The article notes the research is based on previous studies of SARS-CoV-1 and MERS-CoV, which found that llama antibodies could attach and neutralize spike protein found in the viruses that typically attack healthy cells.

ADVERTISEMENT

The group developed a new antibody for treating SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, by merging two copies of llama antibodies that worked with previous SARS infections, according to the journal.

They found that the merged antibody demonstrates a similar action to the previous study, neutralizing spike proteins in cells infected by SARS-CoV-2. 

"While we were working on this project, the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus emerged, and the spike proteins are pretty similar between SARS-CoV-2 and the original SARS," said Jason McLellan, associate professor of molecular biosciences at UT-Austin and co-senior author of the paper, in an interview with the Austin American Statesman. "We thought that maybe this nanobody, if we isolated it, would also bind to this one."

The treatment is different from a vaccine, as regular immunizations are used as preventative methods for treating viruses and can take months to be effective. However, the antibody treatment works nearly immediately, according to McLellan. 

"Immediately after injection, they'll basically have immunity to that virus. It will wane over time, after a certain number of months, perhaps, but they become immediately immune," McLellan said.

McLellan said the animal testing would soon commence, adding that human trials could begin in as little as two months.