A "Belgian" llama in the fight against Covid-19


A Belgian-American scientific team has published the results of their work to synthesise a new type of antibody that is effective against coronavirus. Surprisingly, Winter, a young llama from the Ghent region, is at the origin of this new hope.


A team of scientists from the University of Texas and the Ghent Center for Medical Biotechnology is working on a new type of treatment for the coronavirus. Their objective is to identify antibodies capable of neutralising the development of the disease in patients with Covid-19.


These antibodies are apparently present in a llama named Winter, who lives carefree on a farm not far from Ghent. The four-year-old camelid was in fact injected shortly after birth with viral particles belonging to two other known coronavirus strains (SARS-CoV-1 responsible for the 2002 SARS epidemic, and MERS-CoV, at the basis of a respiratory syndrome that appeared in the Middle East in 2012).


The researchers then came up with the idea of synthesising a new antibody by combining two copies of the llama antibody that have already proven effective against SARS-CoV-1. And according to the results of their first laboratory tests, which have just been published in the very serious journal Cell, the formula could also be effective against Covid-19.


However, trials on coronavirus patients are not feasible in the immediate future. Preclinical animal studies must first validate the positive results already obtained. Only then could a human testing protocol be considered.