If you think you’ve heard llamas mentioned together with a coronavirus vaccine, you didn’t misunderstand. There really is something to it.
Years ago, scientists discovered that llamas produce two different kinds of antibodies: one like the human variety and the other about a quarter the size. These nanoantibodies can reach crevices on viral spike proteins that are inaccessible to larger human antibodies. And when spike proteins are antibody-bound, the virus is neutralized — meaning, it’s no longer infectious.
Scientists previously recovered antibodies to MERS and SARS after injecting llamas with spike proteins from each. As anticipated, llamas also produce neutralizing antibodies to the novel coronavirus.
If a prophylactic treatment for people develops out of this research, you’ll likely be hearing a lot more about llamas.