Researchers in the United States found that small antibodies taken from a llama — called nanobodies — could potentially protect against COVID-19.

After the current health crisis began, researchers extracted nanobodies produced by the immune system of a llama named Cormac that were effective in targeting the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Nanobodies are smaller, lighter antibodies that can be extracted from the serum of llamas and isolated under sterile conditions in a lab setting. Nanobodies had already been found to be effective against a rare blood disease.

Man in protective gear talking to others in protective gear (Courtesy of Uniformed Services University)
A medical team at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Maryland (Courtesy of Uniformed Services University)

“When the pandemic broke, we thought this was a once-in-a-lifetime, all-hands-on-deck situation and joined the fight,” said Dr. David Brody, director of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences’ Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine, who led the latest study with Thomas J. “T.J.” Esparza. “We hope that these anti-COVID-19 nanobodies may be highly effective and versatile in combating the coronavirus pandemic.”

Nanobodies are less expensive and easier to reproduce than typical antibodies, allowing them to be used frequently for medical research.