Cormac the llama could help with pandemic

08 January 2021 | Muriel Cozier

Nanobodies from a llama are effective against SARS-CoV-2.

Researchers from the National Institute of Health (NIH), the US’ medical research agency, report that they have isolated nanobodies from a llama, named Cormac, which are effective against SARS-CoV-2.

The preliminary results, which are published in the journal Scientific Reports, indicates that one of the nanobodies, called NIH-CoVnb-112, could prevent infections and detect virus particles by ‘grabbing hold of SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins’. It was also found that the nanobody appeared to work well in either liquid or aerosol form, suggesting it could remain effective after inhalation.

The researchers explain that a nanobody is a special type of antibody naturally produced by the immune system of camelids, a group of animals that includes camels, llamas and alpacas. On average these proteins are about one tenth the weight of most human antibodies. Because nanobodies are more stable, less expensive to produce and easier to engineer than typical antibodies, a growing number of researchers have been using them for medical research. Since the start of the pandemic a number of scientists have produced llama nanobodies against the SARs-CoV-2 spike protein that may be effective in preventing infections.

This latest study was led by Thomas J Esparza, from the Henry M Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine, Maryland, US and Dr David L Brody, Professor at Uniformed Services University for the Health Sciences, Maryland US. Dr Brody said; ‘We hope that these anti-Covid-19 nanobodies may be highly effective and versatile in combating the coronavirus pandemic.’ The team has applied for a patent on the NIH-CoVnB-112 nanobody.

DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-79036-0

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