A new potential cure for the novel coronavirus might come in one of the most unexpected forms: llama antibodies.
Though the fluffy animal is known more for its memes than scientific potential, a groundbreaking new study conducted by a collection of scientists from institutions including the National Institute of Health, Ghent University in Belgium, and Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine have concluded that llamas may hold the cure for COVID-19.
According to Science Alert, antibodies in llamas have been found to “neutralize” COVID-19, making it one of the first — if not the actual first — antibodies to be able to do so.
Researchers first looked into using llama antibodies after realizing that the antibodies used from a baby llama had managed to stave off similar coronavirus infections in a study conducted four years ago. The scientists then tested the same llama antibodies on the COVID-19, and discovered that it was extremely effective in preventing and stopping the virus.
Many are now heralding the discovery as a huge breakthrough in the fight against the deadly disease.
“This is one of the first antibodies known to neutralize SARS-CoV-2,” proclaimed Jason McLellan, from the University of Texas at Austin and co-author of the study, in a statement.
One of the reasons that health experts are so encouraged with the study is that antibodies are often seen as more effective than vaccines because antibodies offer almost immediate protection.
“With antibody therapies, you’re directly giving somebody the protective antibodies and so, immediately after treatment, they should be protected,” McLellan explained.
Meanwhile, vaccines “have to be given a month or two before infection to provide protection,” he added.
Moreover, the antibodies do not only offer protection, but also a potential cure for those already infected.
“The antibodies could also be used to treat somebody who is already sick to lessen the severity of the disease,” McLellan continued.
Though the use of llamas may sound odd, the animals have often been used in human medical research. The reason is that llama antibodies are extremely small, allowing them to attach to the virus more easily.
In fact, llama antibodies have been used previously in research against HIV and influenza, with promising results recorded for both illnesses.
Though the new research is extremely promising, co-author Xavier Saelens, a molecular virologist at Ghent University in Belgium, warned that it would still take time to further research the potential cure.
“There is still a lot of work to do to try to bring this into the clinic,” he warned, though he added that if the antibodies work, the llama used in the research should earn a “statue.”
Meanwhile, there are other measures that can be taken to protect against COVID-19. For example, a recent study suggested that cases of the coronavirus would plummet in the United States if just 80 percent of civilians wore masks in public, as was previously reported by The Inquisitr.