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3 May, 2021 15:02

UAE scientists inject immune camels with Covid-19 in search of clues to beat the pandemic

UAE scientists inject immune camels with Covid-19 in search of clues to beat the pandemic

A group of scientists from the United Arab Emirates have injected camels with dead samples of Covid-19, hoping that the antibodies produced by the animals – which are immune to the virus – can someday be used to cure humans.

The Arabs have relied on camels for millennia and continue to do so in the 21st century, this time recruiting the desert animals in the battle against the coronavirus.

The head of the UAE’s Central Veterinary Research Laboratory, Dr. Ulrich Wernery, and his team have chosen dromedaries or one-humped camels for their experiments because they’re known to be immune to Covid-19 and its predecessor, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). Unlike humans and some other animals, they simply lack a virus receptor, which the disease uses as a gateway into cells.

“MERS-CoV, [camels] can harbor but they don’t get sick. With Covid-19, the virus cannot attach to the camels’ mucosa cells of the respiratory tract as the receptor is absent or dull,” Wernery told Al Arabiya.

“This makes it all very interesting. Besides humans, minks and cats – small and big, such as such tigers and lions – can get Covid-19 and can transmit the virus to other cats and to humans and vice versa. But not camels.”

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The scientist explained that camels had been injected with the dead coronavirus so that they could produce antibodies to it. The blood samples from those animals will then facilitate “better tests for the diagnosis for Covid-19,” he said.

“We hope that maybe one day we can use the blood – the antibodies – from camels to treat humans against Covid-19 infections,” Wernery stated.

Covid-19 has already infected over 153 million people and killed more than 3.2 million around the globe. And it turned out that animals weren’t immune to the disease. During the pandemic, reports emerged of cats, dogs, monkeys, tigers, lions and others getting sick and even dying of the virus. Last year, Denmark had to cull its whole population of mink due to a mutated coronavirus strain.

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The exact origins of the coronavirus are currently unknown, but one of the likely scenarios considered by the World Health Organization is that the virus was transmitted from bats to humans through another animal host.

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