Even as scientists around the world struggle to find preventions and cures for SARS-Cov-2, researchers may have found the answer in some tiny antibodies that grow inside the bodies of alpacas and llamas.
Researchers from South Africa and Sweden have found that "nanobodies" present in animals that have already been immunized against the virus can be used to prevents the virus from spreading among humans.
Researchers feel that these tiny antibodies, found in alpacas, can help prevent a second wave of coronavirus, thereby allowing countries to safely lift lockdown guidelines.
How do the antibodies work?
The antibodies infect the spikes in coronavirus, thus harming its ability to infect its host.
Earlier, reports of Tyson, a 12-year-old alpaca in Germany, helping researchers find the cure to COVID-19 went viral.
After immunizing Tyson, a team of reserachers at the Karolinska Institute managed to isolate tiny nanobodies from his blood that bind to the same part of the virus as human antibodies and could block the infection.
They hope this can form the basis of a treatment for COVID 19 or eventually a vaccine against it, though the work is at an early stage.
“We know that it is the antibodies that are directed to the same very, very precise part of the virus that are important and that is what we have engineered with this antibody from Tyson,” Gerald McInerney, head of the team at Karolinska said.
“In principle, all the evidence would suggest it will work very well in humans, but it is a very complex system.”
Llamas and other members of camel family - as well as sharks - are known to produce nanobodies, which are far smaller than the full-size antibodies produced by humans, and therefore potentially easier for scientists to work with.
A vaccine, however, may still be some way off.
(With inputs from Reuters)