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Llamas could possess ‘holy grail’ influenza treatment
Llamas produce tiny antibodies that are much smaller than our own.

Researchers derive synthetic antibody from llama blood

Researchers in California have developed a new influenza treatment that can work across an array of different virus strains.

BBC News reports that the treatment was derived from llama blood and was successful in neutralising 59 out of 60 different viruses used in the study.

Researchers hope the discovery will lead to a treatment that can be used from season to season, and also protect people against emerging pandemics.

Llamas produce tiny antibodies that are much smaller than our own. Human antibodies are prone to attacking the tips of the proteins that protrude out from a virus, but llama antibodies can bury deeper, attacking the parts that influenza cannot change.

In the study, scientists at Scripps Institute in California infected llamas with multiple types of influenza to provoke an immune response. The researchers then searched the llamas’ blood to find the most potent antibodies that could attack a wide array of influenza strains.

Using four of these antibodies, the team then set about building a synthetic antibody that utilised elements from each. The antibody was then tested on mice that were given deadly doses of influenza.

Professor Ian Wilson told the BBC that of the 60 different viruses used in the challenge, only one wasn’t neutralised - a virus that doesn’t infect humans.

Two approaches to administering the antibody were used in the study - injection and gene therapy.

Genetic instructions for producing the antibody were placed inside a harmless virus and used to infect the noses of mice. The cells in the nose lining then started making the antibody the kills influenza.

Researchers say that an additional benefit of this approach is that it could work in the elderly. This is because as we age, the weaker own immune system gets and the less effective the seasonal influenza vaccine becomes.

University of Nottingham Professor Jonathan Ball told the BBC: "Having a treatment that can work across a range of different strains of virus is highly sought after. It's the Holy Grail of influenza.

"There will be an appetite, but it depends how well these things work, how easy it is to produce and also how costly it will be.”

The study, Univeral Protection against influenza infection by a multidomain antibody to influenza hemagglutinin, is published in Science.

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Nominations for 2019 RSPCA Honours Awards now open

News Story 1
 People across the UK are being urged to nominate a standout animal champion for the 2019 RSPCA Honours Awards.

The awards recognise those who have worked tirelessly to improve animal welfare, campaigned on behalf of animals, or shown true bravery. Previous winners include comedian John Bishop, who was awarded Celebrity Animal Champion of the Year, and 11-year-old Lobby Cantwell, who raised more than £1,000 for the charity through mountain climbs and bike rides.

To submit a nomination or find out more about the awards visit the RSPCA website. Nominations will remain open until 4 pm on Friday, March 15.  

Click here for more...
News Shorts
New £1m project to investigate dairy cow lameness

Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) is leading a new £1 million research project to investigate the causes of lameness in dairy cows.

One in three dairy cows are affected by lameness every day in the UK, costing the industry an estimated £250 milion annually.

The project will take three years to complete and is due to finish by November 2021.

Professor Georgios Banos of SRUC commented: “In addition to pain and discomfort to the animal, lameness is associated with decreased milk production and inflated farm costs.

“Among cows raised in the same environment, some become lame while others do not. Understanding the reasons behind this will help us develop targeted preventive practices contributing to enhanced animal welfare and farm profitability.”