Llamas Can Help Protect You From Flu All Year Round

Dhir Acharya - Nov 07, 2018

Llamas Can Help Protect You From Flu All Year Round

Scientists at Scripps have recently studied llamas with the hope to forever protect humans from all types of flu. Here's how they develop the idea.

Human antibodies comprise of heavy and light proteins that are wrapped around each other, but llama antibodies are formed by heavy proteins only. And scientists think that this difference is the key to improving our immunity.

flu virus

Flu virus

Antibodies in llama bodies are smaller chains, allowing them to fit into spaces between molecules which human antibodies cannot. Hence, Scripps Institute’s researchers have been working on applying this structure to improving influenza protection.

There are four kinds of influenza virus. Among those, influenza A and B cause seasonal flu diseases, but influenza A is the reason for pandemics. Influenza A includes two subtypes namely neuraminidase (N) and hemagglutinin (H), which are based on protein names. Further, H has 18 subtypes as opposed to 11 subtypes of N. Now that answer the question why bird flu is called H5N1 and swine is named H1N1.

Currently, flu vaccines fight hemagglutinin protein. However, this protein changes itself regularly, so flu shots have to be modified annually as they cannot be permanent like smallpox shots. Flu shots enable human antibodies to attach then counteract influenza strains in circulation at the time. Previously, scientists developed antibodies which fight all types of hemagglutinin, yet they turn out weak to influenza B and not long-lasting.

Kết quả hình ảnh cho flu vaccines

Therefore, scientists at Scripps did an experiment with llamas. They immunized them using a flu vaccine plus extra H molecules. Next, when the llamas generated four antibodies in response, the scientists isolated those four antibodies. Of four antibodies made by llamas, two were against influenza A and the others were against influenza B.

According to the study, if we translate the findings in this experiment to human bodies, human bodies can have an annual intranasal administration which can provide passive protection against influenza for the whole year. This would be specifically useful for the old and other groups at high risk of flu.

Apparently, what we’ve got so far is just experimental findings and it’ll take much longer to try on humans and apply in reality. However, this result can contribute to not only flu protection but also immunizing other mutating pathogens such as Hepatitis C and even HIV.


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