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covid19 nasal spray R&D

UK researchers claim they have developed a nasal spray that can provide protection against the virus which causes COVID-19 and are seeking an industry partner to commercialize the device as a consumer health product.

Comprising an antiviral agent, λcarrageenan, and a gellan polysaccharide, the nasal spray has been shown in the laboratory to “prevent and slow” transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, according to a pre-print study by scientists at the University of Birmingham.

With the spray formulated using compounds already approved by regulatory bodies in the Europe and the US, and widely used in medical devices, medicines and food products, the researchers believe the product could be commercially available very quickly. “With the right partners, we could start mass production within weeks,” they say.

A patent application has been filed covering the sprayable antiviral formulation for use as an oral, nasal or multi-surface spray by University of Birmingham Enterprise – the institution’s commercial arm –  which is now seeking to license the patent to an industry partner “that is committed to manufacturing a consumer product.”

University of Birmingham Enterprise told HBW Insight that the organization was looking to work with a company “that will ensure the widest possible distribution.”

There was “no reason” why the nasal spray couldn’t be marketed without prescription, UoB Enterprise said, but noted the product would need a CE mark before it could be launched in Europe.

Study Shows 'Significant' Infection Suppression

In the study – “Complete Inhibition of SARS-CoV-2 Via Site-Specific Formulation of Sprays” – the researchers determined the nasal spray formulation’s ability to prevent infection in cell cultures challenged by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

They showed significant suppression of the infection (minimum of p<0.05) up to a dilution of 1/300 in comparison with the untreated control group, and complete, highly significant (p<0.001) inhibition of infection at dilutions above 1/30. 

The researchers tested the dosing by treating the virus before it was added to cell culture, and by treating the cells first and then introducing the virus, and concluded that the formulation prevents infection by putting a steric barrier around both the cells and the virus while the viruses are incapacitated by λcarrageenan.

In real-world use, the researchers say this should equate to an antiviral nasal spray that catches and coats the virus inside the nose, preventing its uptake by the body, so it can be eliminated via the usual routes (either nose-blowing or swallowing).  In the eventuality that virus particles are passed to another person via a sneeze or cough, they claim the antiviral effect would reduce the risk of transmission of active viruses.  

Promising Research, But COVID Claims Risky

The nasal spray developed by the University of Birmingham is the latest consumer health product to make COVID-fighting claims.

Earlier in November, Canada’s Bausch Health Companies Inc. said it was weighing up initiating discussions with drug industry regulators worldwide about submitting a proposal for a potential COVID-19 remedy after lab tests showed “complete inactivation" of the virus by its Lumify OTC eye drops. (Also see "Bausch Considers Proposal For COVID-19 Drug: Lumify Eye Drops Inactivate Virus In Lab Tests" - HBW Insight, 16 Nov, 2020.)

Separately, Ann Arbor, MI-based BlueWillow Biologics Inc. in October said its NanoBio Protect Nasal Antiseptic Solution had demonstrated COVID-19 killing power in lab test, while Singapore’s Mundipharma International Ltd. said in April it was collaborating with experts in Asia, Europe and the US on in vitro and in vivo studies to evaluate the effectiveness of antiseptic povidone-iodine used in mouthwash to prevent COVID-19. (Also see "NanoBio Nasal Antiseptic, Burst Oral-Care Probiotics And More: Personal Care Launch News" - HBW Insight, 8 Oct, 2020.) (Also see "Studies To Investigate If Betadine Mouthwash Can Prevent COVID-19 Infection" - HBW Insight, 22 Apr, 2020.)

Regulators on both sides of the Atlantic are yet to approve any drugs or other medical products which can be marketed with indications to prevent or treat COVID-19.

The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority has warned marketers not to reference COVID-19 or coronavirus in ads for dietary supplements after a number of firms fell foul of the law. (Also see "COVID-19 Mentions Prohibited From Supplement Ads - UK Regulator" - HBW Insight, 20 Jul, 2020.)

While in the US, industry self-regulation group BBB National Programs Inc. has referred a number of firms to the Federal Trade Commission for making fraudulent claims for products labeled as dietary supplements to prevent or treat COVID-19. (Also see "Risking FTC Scrutiny, Direct Seller Ignores Industry Self-Regulation Group On COVID-19 Claims" - HBW Insight, 19 Nov, 2020.)

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