A nasal spray could be the breakthrough we need to end Covid-19, reports Forbes.
The drip, drip of doom and gloom seems to have turned the corner in recent days, particularly after Pfizer's announcement that said its vaccine had a 90 percent efficacy success. Of course, this good news comes with plenty of caveats, so it's very welcome to learn that there's a possible solution to ending the spread of the virus too, rather than curing it.
According to William Haseltine, a professor at Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health for nearly two decades, researchers have discovered a new peptide, that could be delivered simply and easily in the form of a nasal spray, has the potential to end the pandemic sooner than later.
In a small study published on Monday, and currently undergoing peer review, two ferrets were given the nasal spray and another two a placebo. Researchers stuck them in a cage with another ferret that had been infected the day before, and 24 hours later, out they came - two perfectly protected and two infected.
Were the spray to protect humans as well as it does ferrets, it would be comparable with a successful vaccine in terms of its ability to prevent the spread of disease - not to mention better than many of the Covid-19 vaccines currently in phase 3 clinical trials that have proven only moderately effective. Rather than mitigating symptoms after the fact, a quick squirt or two of the nasal spray would stop the infection altogether.
Beyond the novelty and promise of the approach, the study is notable for a number of reasons, says Haseltine. First, the researchers took considerable care to mimic the natural process of exposure and infection, co-housing the treated and untreated ferrets with ones that had been infected with SARS-CoV-2. While occasional tussling and biting might provide opportunities for transmission, it was just as likely that the ferrets would contract the virus simply by sharing the same air - much as we humans do.
Second, manufacturing the nasal spray en masse would be relatively straightforward. Large quantities of the peptides that constitute the spray can be made quickly and easily. Because of the simplicity of the process and components involved, the spray would also be inexpensive to produce and ideally inexpensive to purchase.
The study, like any other, comes with a few caveats. For example, it remains to be seen whether the mucous membranes that line our nose and other bodily cavities behave like ferret mucosa.
However, Haseltine argues that the full weight of both the public and private sector should be put behind testing this nasal spray in humans as quickly and forcefully as they are with vaccines. If they do and the spray is found to be safe and effective in humans, it could be brought to market and available for use in as little as six months. Wouldn't it be just great if humanity were to have both a cure in the form of a vaccine and a mechanism for prevention in the form of a nasal spray?
He concludes by saying that the nasal spray may be the breakthrough we’ve been waiting for to end the pandemic. "It will require a bold commitment, but if anything deserves warp speed, in my opinion it’s this."