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Llama antibodies studied as potential treatment for COVID-19

BOSTON — Health officials have noted we’re still some time away from a vaccine for the novel coronavirus. But, in the meantime, one potential therapeutic treatment for COVID-19 could stem from antibodies.

Not just human antibodies, but those from llamas.

A new study published in Cell Press, a publisher of dozens of scientific journals, focused on llamas who were immunized with “prefusion-stabilized betacoronavirus spike proteins.”

Researchers then identified particular antibodies within the llamas, noting that the antibodies could help in further research on viruses and even as potential candidates for COVID-19 therapeutic treatment.

“Because of the current lack of treatments for MERS, SARS, and COVID-19 and the devastating effects associated with pandemic coronavirus outbreaks, both prophylactic and therapeutic interventions are sorely needed,” according to the study. “It is our hope that because of their favorable biophysical properties and their potent neutralization capacity, [the antibodies] MERS VHH-55, SARS VHH-72, and VHH-72-Fc  may serve as both useful reagents for researchers and as potential therapeutic candidates”.

Daniel Wrapp, Dorien De Vlieger, Kizzmekia S. Corbett, Bert Schepens, Xavier Saelens and Jason S. McLellan are all credited as authors on the study.

According to Science Alert, llama antibodies have been focused on in prior studies regarding the development of therapies that can help treat infections and disease, such as HIV and influenza. “Thanks to the llamas’ antibodies’ small size, they can connect with different parts of the virus more easily,” the publication notes.

While the results of the study can be viewed as promising, the science and health community is still working to determine what may prove to be effective treatments for those infected with COVID-19.

There have been reports and trials that indicate that remdesivir, had positive effects on individuals infected with COVID-19, with the Food and Drug Administration issuing an emergency authorization for the Gilead Sciences’ drug to be used in treatment of severe confirmed COVID-19 cases.

“While there is limited information known about the safety and effectiveness of using remdesivir to treat people in the hospital with COVID-19, the investigational drug was shown in a clinical trial to shorten the time to recovery in some patients,” the FDA notes.

Hxdroxycholoroquine, a treatment touted by President Donald Trump in the early days of the pandemic, had been recently advised against by the FDA for treatment outside of a hospital setting or clinical trials “due to risk of heart rhythm problems.”

In late April, President Donald Trump received widespread criticism after suggesting that injecting disinfectants could help to treat COVID-19. He would later claim that his remarks were sarcastic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as the parent company of Lysol, warned individuals about the health hazards of consuming or injecting disinfectants.

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