Australian researchers are using alpacas to help in the fight against COVID-19, with the animal’s immune system proving to be a key to potential breakthroughs.
Alpaca breeders, Andrew (pictured) and Cathy Chapman of Salter Springs, are keen to find out how their beloved animals might hold the key to prevent or treat COVID-19.
“We heard about this research last week so it will be interesting to see what eventuates,” Andrew and Cathy said.
Like most people, Chapmans had no idea how scientists came up with the idea of using alpacas in the fight against COVID.
“Maybe one spat on someone, and they tested it,” Andrew laughed.
Researchers have been immunising alpacas with the spike protein from the SARS CoV-2 virus (the one that causes COVID-19,) and then isolating nanobodies (small fragments of antibodies our systems produce in response to an infection).
The nanobodies are then screened to see how they inhibit the interaction of the spike protein to infect human cells.
The technique used is called crystallography, which is used all around the world to study health and biological processes and to understand diseases.
It is also used to develop targeted medicines effective in treating diseases such as COVID-19.
The technique is also being used by researchers to understand how the human body’s immune system can fight infection caused by the SARS virus. The program has been running since March, but only time will tell how effective it will be in the fight against COVID-19.