Human and Llama antibodies combined managed to neutralize Sars-CoV-2, according to pre-published research. If confirmed, scientists will be able to produce an antiviral in one year.
In 1989, the University of Brussels, Belgium, was primarily responsible for studying the properties of antibodies to camelids, a family of mammals that includes animals such as camels, alpacas, llamas, among others. Over time, these immune system proteins have been used in studies to combat the HIV virus and even diseases caused by coronaviruses, such as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and Mers (Middle East respiratory syndrome).
Now, the time has come for antibodies to have their properties tested against Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. According to Belgian researchers at the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology (VIB), the antibodies found in llamas (Lama glama) can help neutralize the new coronavirus, opening new avenues for developing treatments for the disease.
The study was led by professors Xavier Saelens and Bert Schepens, from VIB; Jason McLellan, from the University of Texas at Austin; and Stefan Pöhlmann, from the Leibniz Institute, in Germany. Pre-published on bioRxiv, the research observed the reaction of two types of llama antibody exposed to the SARS (Sars-CoV) and Mers (Mers-CoV) viruses.
One was able to neutralize Mers-CoV, while the other eliminated Sars-CoV. At a later stage, a hybrid antibody was produced by combining that second llama antibody with a human antibody. As a result, it was possible to neutralize Sars-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19. “The data suggest that these antibodies may be useful in fighting coronavirus epidemics,” Nature announced in early April.
“With the antibody that we propose and announce in our discovery, we can bring immediate immune protection to a patient or a potentially exposed person,” explains Xavier Saelens, in an interview with Euronews, saying that the development of a safe antiviral can take about one year.
While awaiting confirmation of the results, which seem promising, the VIB researchers are already preparing for the pre-clinical testing phase, as a press release informs. If successful, the antiviral can help to immunize people at risk and professionals exposed to the virus instantly.