H84T-BanLec is derived from a lectin (a carbohydrate-binding protein) isolated from banana fruit. It accomplishes its remarkable viral-blocking abilities by binding to high-mannose glycans, polysaccharides that are present on the surface of the viruses, but only very rarely on normal healthy human cells. After binding, the virus cannot enter cells to infect them.
Using atomic force microscopy and related methods, the team confirmed that H84T develops multiple strong bonds with the spike protein, which, said Markovitz, probably explains why it’s hard for a coronavirus to be resistant to the lectin.
Despite their anti-viral potential, lectins have traditionally been avoided as possible therapies because they are proteins that can stimulate the immune system in a potentially harmful way, explains Markovitz. However, H84T-BanLec has been modified to remove this effect and showed no detrimental effects in the animal models.