Thames Valley study finds that llamas could hold the key to a treatment for Covid19

  • Video report by ITV News Meridian reporter Heather Edwards

Scientists in Oxford are hoping that llamas could be the key to helping neutralise the virus in critically ill Covid-19 patients.

Researchers at the Rosalind Franklin Institute have found antibodies derived from llamas when given a small amount of the Covid protein can be turned into specialist nanobodies.

These might have advantages in targeting the virus in humans.

There is currently no cure or vaccine for COVID-19.

However, transfusion of critically ill patients with serum from recovered individuals, which contain human antibodies against the virus, has been shown to greatly improve clinical outcome.

However, it is a complicated process.

A serum made in a lab, available on demand would be advantageous, say researchers.

Fifi, one of the llamas at the University of Reading, has an important role to play as the first llama to produce the required antibodies.

If successful, the team at the Rosalind Franklin laboratories will start running animal trials, followed by human trials, to see if Fifi's nanobodies can stop infected people becoming seriously ill with coronavirus.

This research is a great example of team work in science, as we have created, analysed and tested the nanobodies in 12 weeks. This has seen the team carry out experiments in just a few days, that would typically take months to complete. We are hopeful that we can push this breakthrough on into pre-clinical trials.

Professor Ray Owens, Oxford University