Are COVID-19-blocking nasal sprays on the horizon?

A very interesting article published in on 31st October discussed the ongoing research on the development of COVID-19 nasal sprays that may help block the virus.

Professor Anne Moscona and her colleagues at Columbia University may have found a compound that might work to prevent COVID-19. No, it isn’t another vaccine formulation, this solution (if proven to work) will take the form of a nasal spray. 

How would they work as a preventative measure?

How regular nasal sprays work depends substantially upon their active ingredients. For example:

  1. Antihistamine nasal sprays work by blocking the effects of histamine that results in unwanted symptoms like sneezing, itching, and nasal congestion when exposed to allergens.
  2. Decongestant nasal sprays relieve your stuffy nose by temporarily shrinking the blood vessels inside the nose.
  3. Saline nasal sprays are the simplest type of nasal spray for allergies because they aren’t a medication. They contain a saline solution to help loosen mucus and debris inside the nose to clear congestion and blockages.

Not to be confused with any of the above, the proposed COVID-19 nasal spray would contain short-lived compounds that would block the virus’s ability to enter cells. Unlike vaccines, which are designed to program our immune system to build immunity that may last for a few months, the COVID-19 nasal spray (if proven to work), would be ‘fast-acting and applied frequently, perhaps once or twice a day, to the site where the virus first takes hold – the nasal lining and throat’. 

Professor Moscona and her colleagues describe the spray as, ‘a peptide that gums up the virus’s machinery for fusing with a host cell. This prevents the virus from delivering its genetic payload into the cell, thus blocking infection.’.

Professor Richard Leduc, a molecular pharmacologist at the University of Sherbrooke in Canada, has developed another nasal-spray compound that inhibits a host enzyme needed by viral particles to fuse with a target cell. 

How would we benefit from such nasal sprays?

Vaccines protect against severe COVID-19, but they’re less adept at preventing infection, and current antivirals treat infection rather than preventing it. 

The nasal sprays could offer people an easier and more accessible method to avoid infection aside from wearing a face mask, especially in high-risk settings like hospitals, aged care homes and schools.

It could help offset the declining uptake of the 3rd and 4th COVID-19 vaccines even after the introduction of Moderna’s bivalent formulation. 

That said, the COVID-19 nasal sprays have a long way to go before they are proven to be effective. They must prove to be adept at coating any surface to which a virus may attach. Once the viral particles breach even a few cells, a full-scale infection can progress rapidly.

This is a space worth watching as we move forward.

Opinions or facts expressed within the content have been sourced from various news sources. While every effort has been taken to source them accurately, the pharmacy, its owners, staff or other affiliates do not take any responsibility for errors in these sources. Patients should not rely on the facts or opinions in the content to manage their own health, and should seek the advice of an appropriate medical professional. Further, the opinions or facts in the content do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the pharmacy, its owners, staff or other affiliates.

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