Australian scientists believe alpacas may potentially hold the key to a COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough.
Researchers from ANSTO and the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) are reportedly researching alpaca antibodies as they compete in the global race to create coronavirus-fighting remedies.
It’s believed the animal’s unique immune system could provide the key to a breakthrough.
Lead researcher, Professor Michael James told NCA NewsWire that trials so far had used a method that involved using alpaca nanobodies (fragments of antibodies) in response to infection, with a view to then examining how they interact with the coronavirus.
“This is a protein we’ve all seen on pictures of the virus: those small spikes that stick out from the surface,” he said.
“That spike is used to connect with our cells and once the virus is able to connect with our cells it’s able to start replicating.”
He said by immunising the alpacas with the spike protein, his team had been able to isolate nanobodies which inhibited the COVID virus’s activity.
While it all sounds very promising, Prof James said transforming the groundbreaking scientific work into a possible virus vaccine was still a long way away.
“I don’t think it will be something (treatment) that is ready this year or even next year,” he said.
“The work we are doing at the moment is to understand what’s going on at the atomic and molecular levels.”