In Early Testing, Nasal Spray Shows Signs It Can Fight COVID-19 virus
Over two years into the pandemic, researchers are still searching for new and better ways to help people avoid COVID-19.
While COVID-19 vaccines and boosters have been helpful at protecting people from severe hospitalization and death, they have been less effective at preventing symptomatic cases of the disease.
Now researchers are looking at novel ways to keep COVID-19 from infecting human cells.
ResearchersTrusted Source at Cornell University have been testing a nasal spray that blocks COVID-19 infection. Their study discovered a small molecule that, if sprayed into the nose, may help prevent COVID-19 from infecting cells.
The study is still in its early stages and is currently only being tested in mice. But experts are hopeful that this type of study may help lead to better protection against the virus.
Nasal spray work mechanism:
The nasal spray releases a molecule that may help stop the virus from attaching to cells in the nose and respiratory tract.
The researchers found that a molecule, N-0385, can both protect against infection in healthy subjects and ease symptoms in patients if used within 12 hours of exposure to COVID-19.
The coronavirus attacks cells with its spike protein. This protein helps the virus gain access to human cells. To do so it binds to a receptor on the healthy cells. The team found a small group of molecules, including the N-0385, that might be able to prevent the spike protein from attaching to the cells in their studies on mice.
All the tests on the lab mice showed that the introduced molecule stopped key symptoms of the COVID-19 infection in mice.
The molecule was developed in collaboration with a team from Universite de Sherbrooke in Quebec.
“The problem with the [vaccine] shots is that they are not affecting transmission. What they are doing is amazing because they prevent severe disease, which is the whole point. But it would be even better if we could prevent transmission,” said Dr. Jennifer Lighter, pediatric infectious disease specialist at NYU Langone. “With the nasal spray, what you can imagine is that it starts working quicker in a localized area. There is hope that your mucosal immunity would rev up quicker and would be able to kill the virus before it became a breakthrough infection.
Will it work in humans?
“First of all, this is a really neat idea. Could one use something that could be an over-the-counter medication, or one that is easily applied by an individual, prevent getting COVID-19 at all, or curtail its seriousness very quickly? Those are the two ideas,” said Dr. William Schaffner, Professor of Preventive Medicine and Health Policy, Professor Division of Infectious Diseases, Vanderbilt University. “But does it work for people? The authors of this study are enthusiastic but it’s a big if.”
Schaffner elaborated that if we are trying to prevent or treat COVID-19, we do not know what the daily dose is, how often to spray it into a nose, etc.
“On the safety side, it’s good that it did not make any mice sick, but what will it do to a human’s nose? Will it be red? Will there be inflammation? Who knows what it will do,” he added.
Another issue is that the respiratory tract in the mouse is very short. In humans, it is much longer. It raises questions about whether or not the spray will get to the back of the throat, the nasopharynx, and the upper airway to treat the infection.
“You have to try it in people. It’s wonderful to know about this, but we need to look at the human clinical trial to see how it works,” Schaffner said.
Nasal spray vaccines have already been developed to treat other respiratory diseases, including the seasonal flu.