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Llama antibody studied as way to defeat C. difficile

An animal may be the way to kill a virulent hospital bug, says an article by a team of researchers from the University of Calgary of and the National Research Council of Canada studying llamas.

Approximately two per cent of patients admitted to hospital could be infected by Clostridium difficile, or C. difficile, a disease that causes explosive diarrhea.

Dr. Kenneth Ng, an associate professor of biological sciences at the U of C and principal investigator of the Alberta Ingenuity Centre for Carbohydrate Science, said a unique antibody from llamas might be the key to fighting C. difficile.

"Llamas have normal antibodies like our own, but they have also developed a second type of antibody with a simpler structure," said Ng. "We have found that relatively simple antibodies can interfere with the disease-causing toxins from C. difficile."

What Ng's investigating is how things work on the molecular level. Dr. Jamshid Tanha, a corresponding author of the study from the National Research Council in Ottawa, said this will ultimately allow researchers to develop a new treatment.

"We are currently working with Dr. Ng's group to determine why these antibodies are successful," says Tanha.

Dr. Glen Armstrong, head of the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Infectious Diseases in the Faculty of Medicine at the U of C, said the research is coming as other treatments become less effective.

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