Llamas Join Global Fight Against COVID-19

Llamas are more important in the medical world than you might expect

llama
In a time of crisis, llamas might just be crucial to the solution.
Alexandre Buisse/Creative Commons
By Tobias Carroll / May 17, 2020 3:15 pm

The route to finding a medical solution for COVID-19 is a complex one. Scientists are hard at work researching both vaccines to prevent future outbreaks and treatments to help save the lives of people who contract it. It’s a process working on an accelerated timetable, and one which involves research subjects of multiple species.

A new report at The Guardian suggests that there’s an unexpected animal which might also prove useful in the fight against the coronavirus: llamas. As Matthew Cantor reports, llamas have antibodies that are similar to those in human bodies — and a new study suggests that they might be deeply effective during this current medical crisis.

International researchers owe their findings to a llama named Winter, a four-year-old resident of Belgium. Her antibodies had already proven themselves able to fight Sars and Mers, leading researchers to speculate that they could work against the virus behind Covid-19 – and indeed, in cell cultures at least, they were effective against it. Researchers are now working towards clinical trials.

Cantor notes that this is one of several ways in which llamas and human appear to have a mutually beneficial relationship. Besides llama antibodies playing a role in the fight against a number of infectious diseases, they’re also deeply amicable creatures. Numerous people report that their presence has a therapeutic effect all its own.

In this case, then, it’s less surprising than it might seem for llamas to be playing an important role in the ongoing search for treatments and vaccines for COVID-19. This is the kind of endeavor that requires contributions from all over, after all.

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