It seems that the search for a coronavirus treatment has come down to a llama called Winter and her antibodies might the secret ingredient for the cure.
Ironically, Winter the llama became the unlikely source for the cure, and her blood may be the key to saving lives.
In Belgium, Winter and other llamas and alpacas all produce a unique kind of disease-fighting antibodies that has blocked the coronavirus from infiltrating cells.
A study published on Tuesday in a journal by a group of scientists report that petite antibodies were taken from llama blood. It was based to create an antibody that will counter the spiky proteins of the coronavirus and stop it from doing its worst.
The success of these engineered antibodies might create a viable treatment for COVID-19, should it be successful in animal to humans' trials.
Winter's antibodies should be able to target the immune system that gets tripped by the coronavirus. These antibodies are called nanobodies that can get anywhere, and last longer in the body to attack pathogens in the body too.
Scientists are using lab mice and human blood that have been exposed to COVID-19 to single out antibody drugs. Labs are working on this important task to provide plasma-based curatives that can save patients from dying.
A vaccine is about a year away, till it gets available there will be antibody therapies to combat COVID-19.
Experts like Wayne Marasco, an infectious disease specialist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute who developed experimental antibody therapies, thinks that antibody therapies might make a difference. One dose of these antibody medicines can treat COVID-19 or stop any infection for months.
Llama antibodies are not for people testing yet, and Belgian researcher is starting to test on hamsters.
Antibody drugs are gaining speed in development but is only a bridge or stopgap for a vaccine though.
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals exposed create mice that is just like a human, which was exposed to identify what are the most promising antibodies that show up. Plasma from survivors are analyzed to create an antibody cure that might start trials in June for all type of people.
According to George Yancopoulos, chief scientific officer of Regeneron, an antibody cocktail has not been made before, and the science behind it will be studied to create a cure.
Another of these firms is Vir Biotechnology that is planning tests and collecting blood from all COVID-19 survivors to create an antibody-based treatment. Several companies are collecting samples in homes to avoid infection for just healed patients.
Scientists from the Utrecht University in the Netherlands said that they made a monoclonal antibody called 47D11 which can neutralize the coronavirus in laboratory tests.
Antibody drugs are made by scientists in the lab which is expensive, and there is a need to increase the production of these coronavirus cures.
According to George Scangos, the chief executive of Vir,"The problem with this whole approach is you have to scale before you know if your drug works. Because if you don't [scale], and your drug works - now it's a year before you can provide any reasonable number of doses, and that's not a situation that anyone wants to be in."
The small antibodies of Winter might be used for inhalers, other options are monoclonal antibodies given by injection. If llama antibodies work, it might pan out as a success.