Llama antibodies are different from ours. Our antibodies are a mix of two pairs of proteins, heavy and light, wrapped around each other. Llamas, camels, and sharks all use only a pair of heavy chains. Because they are smaller, they can wedge into molecular crevices that our larger antibodies can’t access. Perhaps that’s why scientists based at The Scripps Institute decided to use them as a basis for flu protection.
There are four types of influenza viruses, creatively termed A, B, C, and D. Influenzas A and B are responsible for seasonal epidemics in humans, and influenza A is the one that causes pandemics.
[R]esearchers immunized llamas with a flu vaccine and extra hemagglutinin molecules and isolated four antibodies the llamas made, two against influenza A and two against influenza B.
When given to mice intravenously a day before the mice were infected with flu, the fusion antibodies were protective against a panel of 60 different flu viruses. And when administered to the mice intranasally a month before infection, they were also able to confer protection.
“If the above preclinical findings translate to humans, an annual intranasal administration may provide passive protection for the entire influenza season and would be of particular benefit to the elderly and other high-risk groups,” they conclude.
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