As scientists around the world race to find a treatment for the novel coronavirus, a four-year-old llama named Winter may hold the key to blunt the virus, according to a statement from the University of Texas.An international team of researchers from the University of Texas at Austin, National Institutes of Health and Ghent University in Belgium had originally been looking for antibodies that could counter SARS or MERS viruses four years ago, and had been working on llamas and alpacas at a research farm in the Belgian countryside. Like the others at the farm, Winter's blood produces a special disease-fighting antibody that so far has shown promise in protecting cells from the coronavirus.Winter, like other llamas, produces two different types of antibodies when sick. While one is similar to the kind produced by the human immune system, the second type of antibody is much smaller.These antibodies are small enough to be consumed through an inhaler, and the team managed to engineer a new antibody that essentially neutralizes the effects of coronavirus infection. Though the study, published in the academic journal Cell on Tuesday and currently under peer review, is preliminary, it shows promise. The team plans on conducting trials in other animals such as primates, and hopes to begin human trials by the end of 2020."This is one of the first antibodies known to neutralize SARS-CoV-2," said associate professor of molecular biosciences at UT Austin Jason McLellan, the study's co-senior author.Because the potential treatment would be an antibody therapy rather than a vaccine, it would be able to protect people more quickly, McLellan said."Vaccines have to be given a month or two before infection to provide protection," he said."With antibody therapies, you're directly giving somebody the protective antibodies and so, immediately after treatment, they should be protected."The antibodies could also be used to treat somebody who is already sick to lessen the severity of the disease.""That was exciting to me because I’d been working on this for years," said Daniel Wrapp, one of the researchers and co-authors of the study. "But there wasn’t a big need for a coronavirus treatment then. This was just basic research. Now, this can potentially have some translational implications, too."