I can feel my immunity rise just looking at these little guys.

We’re coming up on three years since the COVID-19 pandemic took over the world, and even now in some places like Tokyo infections numbers are rising rapidly again. With the uncertainty surrounding the seriousness of new variants and our ability to treat and prevent them, this virus is still making it hard to catch a break from the general chaos in the world.

But now, a new hope has emerged, a cute, fluffy hope that walks kind of funny.

▼ The alpaca!

On 14 July, research teams at Kyoto University and other organizations announced that they have discovered antibodies that appear effective at combating all variants of COVID-19. It turns out that all this time humanity’s greatest weapon against this disease may have been lying in wait inside the adorable little camel-like things.

Many living creatures possess antibodies, which are proteins that bind to viruses and bacteria so that they cannot bind to our cells and make us sick. Alpacas, however, have antibodies which are considerably smaller than humans’. Researchers believe these smaller proteins can be more effective at binding to the coronavirus, especially the parts that undergo mutations inside the virus.

Other animals have smaller antibodies too, such as the alpaca’s cousins the camel and llama, as well as sharks. Of course, the choice between doing blood work on a shark or an alpaca isn’t really a choice at all, so researchers extracted about 20 million types of antibodies from the wooly beasts and gauged their effectiveness against COVID-19 by computer simulation.

As a result they found six types that seemed to easily bind to the coronavirus, and among those there were two which, when combined, were effective against all tested mutant strains of COVID-19. The only one they haven’t tested yet was the new Omicron BA.5 variant, but they feel confident it will work against that as well.

Professor Akifumi Takaori said that they will begin clinical trials of the alpaca antibody combo over the next year or so, and hope to have it ready for practical use in two years. This came as great news to Japanese netizens, many of whom hope it means they can either meet or have an alpaca of their own.

“Alpacas for everyone!”
“Alpacas may save humanity! What a surprise!”
“I want to have an alpaca friend.”
“They’re more than just cute after all.”
“Where is the nearest alpaca?!”
“It’s going to take two years? I wish governments and pharmaceutical companies would work together to make this happen faster.”

Unfortunately, for the sake of safety testing takes time, but if it turns out that these antibodies really are a silver bullet against all COVID-19 variants, it will certainly be worth the wait. And if this is the case, then I think every city should erect alpaca statues in honor of these gentle saviors…really every city should do that anyway though, and spruce up the place a bit.

Source: The Sankei News, Hachima Kiko, Science
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert image: Pakutaso
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