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Alpaca Nanobodies

Updated: Jul 13, 2020

Alpacas could hold the key to neutralising Covid-19 and help suppress any second wave of coronavirus and allow countries to safely lift lockdown, researchers have claimed.

In May, OGN Daily published an article about llamas, whose antibodies - according to research in Belgium - could help protect humans who have not been infected by coronavirus. Now, it seems, attention has moved on to their near relatives: alpacas.

Llamas have long banana-shaped ears while alpacas have straight ears and they are smaller. Their faces are also a bit different with llamas having a longer face, while an alpaca's face looks. Be that as it may, scientists from Sweden have used nanobodies from an alpaca immunised against coronavirus to fight the disease and prevent it “binding” or infecting a person.

The tiny antibody fragment, or nanobody, targets the “spikes” of the Covid-19 virus, which “directly interferes” with its ability to infect a host, reports the Telegraph.

They said  their research “potently neutralises the virus”, adding that because these nanobodies can be cheaply and easily reproduced they could provide a “potent and widely accessible antiviral agent.”

The nanobodies, roughly a tenth of the size of a normal antibody, are “far easier to clone, express and manipulate”.

The authors, from the department of Microbiology, Tumour and Cell Biology at Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, wrote: “The current coronavirus pandemic has drastic consequences for the world’s population, and vaccines, antibodies or antivirals are urgently needed. Neutralising antibodies can block virus entry at an early step of infection and potentially protect individuals that are at high risk of developing severe disease.”

They added: “When available, specific antiviral drugs or antibody therapies will be used to protect individuals at risk and their widespread use will allow immunologically naive populations to exit lockdown more safely.”

Gerald McInerney, Karolinska's team leader, said: "We know that antibodies targeting the same very, very accurate part of the virus are the important ones and that's what we designed with these Tyson antibodies. "In principle, all the evidence would suggest that it will work very well in humans, but it is a very complex system."

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