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'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

(Newser) – 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.

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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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