Tyson the alpaca helps scientists in search for vaccine

Meet Tyson the alpaca,

Scientists in Sweden hope he could help deliver a knockout blow in the fight to develop a vaccine against the new virus.

A team from Karolinska Institute immunized the 12 year-old alpaca with virus proteins and isolated tiny antibodies - known as nanobodies - from his blood.

They then bind to the same part of the virus as human antibodies and could potentially block the infection.

Gerald McInerney is a scientist working on the project.

"So these are the antibodies that we took from the alpaca's blood cells and we can see that those antibodies are bound right on the surface, exactly at the point that the viral protein needs to get into cells. And so this gives us a structural understanding of how these antibodies work to stop the infection."

Alpacas are known to produce nanobodies.

They're far smaller than the full-size antibodies humans produce, and so they're potentially easier for scientists to work with.

The researchers hope their work with Tyson could form the basis of a vaccine against the new virus - although their work is still in the early stages.

"In principle, all the evidence suggests that it would work very well in humans, but it's a very complex system, so we look forward to getting to do those experiments."

As for Tyson, who lives in Germany, his job is done.

"Well, Tyson is 12 years old I believe, and so he may be looking at retirement soon, and so he'll live out his natural life on his farm back in Germany."