Researchers at the University of Birmingham claim they have developed a nasal spray that can protect against Covid-19 and slower transmission of the virus.

According to the research, which has not been peer-reviewed, the spray catches and coats the virus inside the nose, from where it can be eliminated by either blowing or swallowing.

Lead author on the paper Dr Richard Moakes says since the virus is encapsulated in the spray’s viscous coating, it is prevented from being taken up by the body, adding: “Even if 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.”

Moakes’ team in the university’s Healthcare Technologies Institute formulated the spray by using compounds already approved by regulatory bodies in the UK, Europe and the US, and materials widely used in medical devices, medicines and even food products. This means that the normal procedures to take a new product to market are simplified, and the nasal spray could be commercially available very quickly.

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

The gellan, is an important component because it has the ability to be sprayed into fine droplets inside the nasal cavity, where it can cover the surface evenly, and stay at the delivery site, rather than sliding downwards and out of the nose.

Co-author Professor Liam Grover, says: “Although our noses filter 1000s 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 believe the spray could be particularly useful in areas where crowding is less avoidable, such as aeroplanes or classrooms. Regular application of the spray could significantly reduce disease transmission.

“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,” adds Dr Moakes. “What this spray will do, however, is add a second layer of protection to prevent and slow virus transmission.”

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