Viral Innovation: How Animals Are Being Used in the Fight Against the Novel Coronavirus


  • Lauren Huey



One of the most sapient lessons learned from this pandemic is that humans, who perceive themselves as the masters of this planet, are a part of the animal kingdom, not above it. When encroachment upon the territory of other species occurs, they can fight back in an unexpected way – with pathogens. Indeed, this is likely the case with the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, as it transferred from bats to an intermediary host to over 17 million people across the globe. Yet an unforeseen ally in this battle has emerged: animals themselves. The first of these allies are horseshoe crabs, whose blood contains the only known source of a substance called Limulus amebocyte lysate, which detects deadly endotoxins in coronavirus vaccines before they are tested. The second is horses, used by researchers at Mason’s National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases (NCBID) and their collaborators to pioneer a system of largescale antibody creation. In both of these cases, the problem of environmental sustainability remains and has become exacerbated due to the current situation. Though plant-based synthetic alternatives have been developed to address this issue, they are not a silver bullet; more research is needed and regulatory issues involved with their implementation must be solved in order to regain environmental equilibrium. 





Institute for Biohealth Innovation