By Victoria Gill
A Covid therapy derived from a llama named Fifi has shown “significant potential” in early trials.
It is a treatment made of “nanobodies”, small, simpler versions of antibodies, which llamas and camels produce naturally in response to infection.
Once the therapy has been tested in humans, scientists say, it could be given as a simple nasal spray – to treat and even prevent early infection.
Prof James Naismith described nanobodies as “fantastically exciting”.
Prof Naismith, who is one of the lead researchers and director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute in Oxfordshire, explained that coronavirus-infected rodents treated with the new nanobody nasal spray fully recovered within six days.
The treatment has, so far, been tested only in those lab animals, but Public Health England said it was among the “most effective SARS-CoV-2 neutralising agents” it had ever tested.
This apparent covid-fighting potency comes from the strength with which nanobodies bind to the virus.
Just like our own antibodies, virus-specific nanobodies latch on to and bind to viruses and bacteria that invade our bodies. This binding essentially tags an invading virus with an immune “red flag”, to allow the rest of the body’s immune armoury to target it for destruction.