Researchers at the University of Birmingham have developed a nasal spray capable of preventing infection from coronavirus, as well as stopping people from infecting others.
According to the study, the nasal spray catches and coats the virus inside the nose, from where it can be eliminated by either nose-blowing or swallowing.
The research advances that, “As the virus is encapsulated in the spray, it is prevented from being taken-up by the body, so if any virus particles are passed on to another person via a sneeze or cough, that person is less likely to be infected by active virus particles.”
Professor Liam Grover, one of the leading authors of the study, adds that, “Although our noses filter thousands of litres of air each day, there is not much protection from infection, and most airborne viruses are transmitted via the nasal passage.
“The spray we have formulated delivers that protection but can also prevent the virus being passed from person to person.”
The team says it set out to create a spray that could cover the inside of the nose evenly, and remain where it is sprayed.
According to the research papers, it is composed of two polysaccharide polymers. One is an antiviral agent called carrageenan, which is commonly used in foods as a thickening agent. The second is a solution called gellan, which was picked because of its ability to stick to cells inside the nose.
Cell-culture laboratory experiments have showed the spray prevents infection for up to 48 hours.
Researchers say regular application of the spray could significantly reduce disease transmission, and believe it could be particularly useful in areas where crowding is less avoidable, such as on flights or in classrooms.
A spokesperson for the University of Birmingham told reporters that there was “no specific funding” for the project, but that researchers “had been working on formulations for eyedrops that were funded by MRC (Medical Research Council) and NIHR (National Institute for Health Research)”.
“They were able to apply what they had learnt in that area to the development of the spray,” he added.
Co-author Dr Richard Moakes also said the “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.
“Products like these don’t replace existing measures such as mask wearing and handwashing, which will continue to be vital to preventing the spread of the virus.
“What this spray will do, however, is add a second layer of protection to prevent and slow virus transmission.”
The news comes amid major breakthroughs in the race to find a COVID-19 vaccine, with the makers of two leading candidates announcing both jabs are about 95% effective.
With a second wave of coronavirus infections surging across the world, researchers are also looking for other ways to tackle the disease.