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According to a study that could lead to the possible route of treatment for COVID-19, molecules from South American immune system mammal Illamas hinder the entry of a new coronavirus to host cells. In order to develop a new form that is closely linked with the new coronaviral protein, SARS-CoV-2, researchers, including those from the University of Texas at Austin, USA, bind two copies of a particular type of antibody molecules formed by the Illama immune system.

This protein, known as the Spike Protein, helps coronavirus to break down into host cells, as stated in the study published in journal Cell. Researchers have shown that an antibody derived from Illama can block infection cells developed in the laboratory by viruses with this spike protein.

The scientists said they are planning for preclinical trials in animals like a hamster or non-human primates to create a medication that can benefit people after virus infection. The researchers said antibody therapies would do this right away, while vaccines should be provided for one month or two before the infection to ensure safety.

The researchers clarified the strategy can be formed because the immune system of Illamas generates human-like antibodies. When immune systems of Illamas detect foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses, they produce two kinds of antibodies. Another is identical to human antibodies, although one is just a quarter of the size. They added that the smaller antibodies known as single-domain antibodies or nanobodies can be nebulized and inhaled.

“This is one of the first antibodies known to neutralize SARS-CoV-2. With antibody therapies, you’re directly giving somebody the protective antibodies, and so, immediately after treatment, they should be protected. The antibodies could also be used to treat somebody who is already sick to lessen the severity of the disease,” said study co-author Jason McLellan from UT Austin.