'Best Chance' for Coronavirus Cure? Might Be This Llama

Scientists are trying 'antibody therapies' for near-term coronavirus cure
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted May 6, 2020 4:05 PM CDT
Updated May 7, 2020 1:30 AM CDT

Llamas are known as sociable animals with pleasantly soft wool—and now, a possible cure for the coronavirus. Scientists say llamas and alpacas at a research farm in Belgium are producing special antibodies that show promise in stopping the coronavirus, the Washington Post reports. A new scientific paper says these tiny antibodies, taken from a llama named Winter, were used to make a new antibody that seems to neutralize the virus that causes COVID-19. More testing is needed, but Belgian llamas are only part of a wider scientific effort to use so-called "antibody therapies" culled from animal and human responses to the virus that has killed over 250,000 worldwide.

Among the efforts, one company is analyzing the blood of coronavirus survivors and exposing genetically altered mice to the virus see what antibodies they produce. Another is going door-to-door to gather blood from people who had COVID-19, and a Dutch team said Monday it had formed an antibody that curbs the virus in laboratories. Producing a successful drug en masse will be a big challenge, and there's no clear winner yet, but the enthusiasm is there. "Antibody drugs can be used to fight an infection and to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19," former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb wrote in the Wall Street Journal last month. "These medicines may be the best chance for a meaningful near-term success." (Read more coronavirus stories.)

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