Llamas Could Help Fight the Flu

Scientists in the US have recruited an unlikely ally in their efforts to develop a new flu treatment.

Llamas have been used to produce a new antibody therapy that has the potential to work against all types of flu, including new pandemics.

Influenza is the ultimate shape-shifter, constantly mutating its appearance to evade our immune system.

That is why a new flu jab is needed each winter and why the vaccine sometimes misses the mark.

Science is on the hunt for a way to kill all types of flu, no matter the strain or how much it mutates.

That’s where the llama, better known for its wool, comes in.

The animals produce incredibly tiny antibodies in comparison to our own.

Antibodies are weapons of the immune system and they bind to the proteins that stick out from the surface of a virus.

Human antibodies tend to attack the tips of those proteins, but that’s the part influenza mutates most readily.

Llama antibodies use their size advantage to wriggle a little bit deeper and attack the parts that flu cannot change.

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SOURCE: BBC News, James Gallagher