Peruvian alpaca, vicuña and guanaco antibodies could also help defeat COVID-19

13:40 | Lima, Aug. 7.

Llamas are not the only South American camelids in Peru whose antibodies have been highly effective in preventing the coronavirus (COVID-19) from infecting cells. The other three species (alpaca, vicuña, and guanaco) also produce such antibodies, the National Institute of Agrarian Innovation (INIA) reported.

Teodosio Huanca, coordinator of INIA's National Camelid Program, explained that the four species belong to the same family of mammals and come from the same genetic root. Therefore, besides sharing common organic aspects, they produce the same immune system antibodies.

INS develops treatment

According to the molecular biologist at said institution, Henri Bailon, the project  —financed by the National Fund for Scientific, Technological and Technological Innovation Development (Fondecyt)— will apply nano-antibody technology (which INS has already implemented) to develop antibodies derived from camelids —in this case from llamas—capable of neutralizing the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) infection.

Studies in other countries 

Similar studies have been conducted by researchers from the United States and Belgium. According to initial conclusions, this could be used in inhaler treatments or injections for patients with the infection. 

This may be possible by linking two molecules of the llama antibody, which in initial tests proved capable of blocking the virus's ability to infect cells in culture.

This research builds on previous work by the same team, following the SARS and MERS viral outbreaks, when researchers explored the possibility of creating a vaccine against these pathogens in llamas.

Although human trials are lacking, this finding is encouraging, considering the efforts of the world scientific community to defeat COVID-19.

About COVID-19

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) or the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). These viruses can be transmitted between animals and people.

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new strain that had not been previously identified in humans. It is transmitted from human to human through respiratory droplets from coughing and sneezing. COVID-19 is also transmitted by close contact with people infected by the virus.


Published: 8/7/2020