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Image credit: REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

Nasal spray might prevent COVID-19 infections

It could make prevention far more accessible.
Jon Fingas,
November 7, 2020
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A health worker, wearing a protective suit and a face mask, holds a test tube after administering a nasal swab to a patient in a temporary testing site for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Zenith Arena in Lille, France, October 26, 2020. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol
REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

Many hopes for a return to a semi-normal life after COVID-19 revolve around vaccines, but those injections have limits — they’re harder to deploy in low-income and rural areas where there’s no guarantee of easy distribution. Science may offer a more accessible alternative, though. Columbia University researchers have a nasal spray that has successfully prevented COVID-19 infections in tests with ferrets as well as a 3D model of human lungs.

The lipopeptide (that is, a lipid and peptide combination) prevents the coronavirus from fusing with a target cell’s membrane by blocking a key protein from adopting a necessary shape. It should work immediately and last for at least 24 hours. It’s also affordable, lasts a long time, and doesn’t need refrigeration.

A spray like this is still some ways from reaching the public. There would need to be human clinical trials, not to mention large-scale production to provide enough access. Scientists are planning to “rapidly advance” to further testing, Columbia said.

The move could bring protection to many parts of the world where mass COVID-19 vaccinations would be difficult. It might also serve as a “complement” even in places where vaccines are readily available, key researchers Anne Moscona and Matteo Porotto said. People who can’t take vaccines, or those for whom vaccinations don’t work, could spray themselves daily knowing they’d be safe. That, in turn, could further limit the spread of the virus and hasten the end to the pandemic.

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