A nasal spray that can protect against Covid-19 is now ‘ready for use in humans

Thursday, 19th November 2020, 3:47 pm
Updated Thursday, 19th November 2020, 3:47 pm

A nasal spray that can provide effective protection against Covid-19 is now ready for use in humans, according to researchers.

The spray has been developed by scientists at the University of Birmingham and is formulated using compounds already widely approved by regulatory bodies in the UK, Europe and the US.

Inhibiting the infection

Researchers conducted experiments designed to test the ability of the nasal solution to inhibit infection.

While the study has not yet been peer-reviewed, findings have shown that cell-virus cultures inhibited the infection up to 48 hours after being treated with the solution, and when diluted many times.

The spray is composed of two polysaccharide polymers, the first of which is an antiviral agent called carrageenan, commonly used in foods as a thickening agent. The second is a solution called gellan, which was selected for its ability to stick to cells inside the nose.

The gellan is an important component as it is able to be sprayed into fine droplets inside the nose. Once inside, it covers the surface evenly and stays where it was directed, rather than sliding downwards and out of the nose.

The materials are already widely used in medical devices, medicines and some food products, meaning that the normally complex process of taking a new product to market is much simpler.

As such, the spray could be commercially available very quickly.

Lead author on the paper, Dr Richard Moakes, said: “This spray is made from readily available products that are already being used in food products and medicines and we purposely built these conditions into our design process.

“It means that, with the right partners, we could start mass production within weeks.”

How does it work?

The spray works by catching and coating the virus inside the nose from where it can usually be removed, such as by either nose-blowing or swallowing.

Because the virus is trapped in the thick coating of the spray, it is prevented from being uptaken by the body. This means that the viral load in the body will be reduced and if virus particles are passed on to another person via a sneeze or cough, that person is less likely to be infected.

However, the product will not replace existing measures, such as wearing masks and handwashing, which are still vital to preventing the spread of the virus, but it will add a second layer of protection and help to slow virus transmission.

The team believe the spray could be particularly useful in areas where crowding is less avoidable, such as aeroplanes or classrooms, and with regular application, it could significantly reduce the spread of the disease.