A coronavirus vaccine designed in Peru began to be tested on alpacas

Photo of a group of alpacas
Photo of a group of alpacas

A COVID-19 vaccine designed in Peru has started to be tested on alpacas after having had satisfactory results in chickens, he confirmed this Monday to Efe the laboratory in charge of the studies.

Farvet general manager Manolo Fernández explained that three alpacas have received an injection of a protein synthesized in the laboratory for the animal to generate specific antibodies against the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, cause of the pandemic.

Studies on these pathogen-free alpacas will serve as a complement to other tests that will be carried out simultaneously on mice with similar conditions, for which Fernández hopes to obtain conclusive results that support the effectiveness of the vaccine. The next step will be to test it on primates.

Immunized chickens

During the first phase of testing carried out on chickens, the vaccine successfully immunized these specimens against the coronavirusFernández said.

"We have just proceeded to vaccinate three alpacas as a national symbol and to complement the nanoantibody production project," said the manager regarding these animals, known for their fine and valuable wool.

"The tests with alpacas will last about 28 days, but each week we will check what the kinetics of antibody production are. At the same time we will do the same with the mice"he added.

(REUTERS / Ilya Naymushin)
(REUTERS / Ilya Naymushin)

A protein designed in the laboratory

The protein injected in alpacas was designed together with the Bioinformatics and Molecular Biology Laboratory of the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia (UPCH), in charge of Dr. Mirko Zimic, who used several sequences from the virus genome, including one from Peru of an isolated strain by the National Institute of Health (INS).

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The chosen method is the same one that has been successful for this laboratory in other types of coronaviruses that cause pneumonia in birds.

It consists of synthesizing and producing proteins called "Spike S1", which prevent the virus from attaching itself to the receptors of the cell membrane and, therefore, entering it to replicate inside it.

If the results are conclusive in animals, the next step will be to do human tests, a longer process until it is shown that the vaccine has no side effects in the body. In these stages are projects such as Moderna or the Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford, with a higher global public profile.

The development of this vaccine is financed by the National Fund for Scientific, Technological Development and Technological Innovation, which supported the initiative with 350,000 soles (about $ 100,000) as part of a public competition for science and innovation projects to face the COVID-19 emergency.

The flames too

Precisely the llamas, the most symbolic of the four camelids that together with the alpaca can be found in the Andes, are the subject of another similar investigation by the universities of Texas (USA) and Ghent (Belgium) to neutralize the SARS-CoV-2 virus from its antibodies.

The researchers linked two copies of a special type of antibody produced by the flames to create a new one "that binds tightly" with the coronavirus "Spike (S)" protein.

Peru is the second country in Latin America and the twelfth in the world with the most confirmed cases of COVID-19, registering 119,959 infections, of which at least 3,456 have died from the SARS-CoV-2 virus..

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The country has been in quarantine since March 16, when it had scarcely registered 71 cases, but the lack of speed to apply prevention protocols in markets, banks and public transport turned these areas into points of agglomerations and, therefore, focal points. of contagion of the disease.

With information from Efe

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