The Urgent Quest for a Coronavirus Treatment Involves Door-to-Door Blood Collection and a llama Named Winter

Antibody treatments could be a bridge to a vaccine

Written by Karin Brulliard and Carolyn Y. Johnson, The Washington Post

The global search for a treatment targeting the novel coronavirus has led to an unlikely potential savior: a cocoa-colored llama named Winter, whose blood could hold a weapon to blunt the virus.

She lives at a research farm in Belgium with about 130 other llamas and alpacas. And like all of them, she produces a special class of disease-fighting antibodies — tiny, even by antibody standards — that show early promise in laboratory tests in blocking the novel coronavirus from entering and infecting cells.

In a paper published Tuesday in the journal Cell, an international team of scientists reports that these petite antibodies, harvested from Winter’s blood, were used to engineer a new antibody that binds to the spiky proteins that stud the surface of the novel coronavirus, “neutralizing” its insidious effect. The study, though preliminary, points to a possible treatment for covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, if the results hold up in animal and human studies.

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