Is the search for the key ingredient for a universal flu vaccine finally over? Thanks to llama antibodies, researchers were able to produce an antibody therapy that can potentially combat all types of flu.
Universal Flu Vaccine From Llamas?
Vaccines are a key component in fighting the influenza virus. However, challenges such as some people’s poor immune response as well as the influenza virus’s many variations and capability to change still remain. This is why people still need to get immunized with updated vaccines each year and why researchers are still on the hunt for a universal flu vaccine that can combat most if not all types of flu.
To check the immune response of camelids such as llamas, researchers from Scripps Institute in California injected llamas with multiple strains of flu so as to provoke an immune response. The researchers then searched the llama blood for the most potent antibodies that can attack multiple influenza strains and chose the four from which they built a synthetic antibodies. It was then injected into mice with deadly doses of influenza.
Amazingly, the llama antibodies neutralized all but one of the 60 viruses tested, with the remaining virus being one that does not affect humans.
Evidently, the reason why llama antibodies work so well is because animal antibodies are much smaller than human antibodies, which can only attack the tips of the proteins that can be easily mutated. However, the smaller-sized llama antibodies are so small that they get to attack the deeper parts of the virus that it cannot as easily mutate or change.
“The goal here is to provide something that would work from season to season, and also protect you from possible pandemics should they emerge,” said Prof. Ian Wilson, one of the researchers.
Researchers note, however, that their study is still in the very early stages and that more tests are needed before heading on to human trials.
The study is published in the journal Science.