Covid-blocking nasal spray could be in chemists by summer

Izzy Lyons
·3-min read
A patient receiving a nasal spray - Tim Sloan/AFP
A patient receiving a nasal spray - Tim Sloan/AFP
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..

A nasal spray which can prevent a coronavirus infection for up to two days could be available in high street pharmacies by the summer, researchers have said.

Scientists at the University of Birmingham have been developing the spray since April last year and are currently in discussions with shops and pharmaceutical giants on the next steps to mass produce it.

Dr Richard Moakes, the study’s lead researcher, said he is confident in the spray’s formula to help unlock society from social distancing restrictions and “get schools going again”.

The nasal spray, which has not yet been named, is made from ingredients that are already approved for medical use, meaning it is safe for use by humans and does not require further approval.

The formula helps prevent infection by capturing the virus in the nose and encapsulating it in a coating which it cannot escape from. As a result, it would be safe for a person to breathe out - even if inhaled by another person - because the virus would be inactive and harmless.

“As an over the shelf product, we have spoken to companies with a presence on the high street as we think they could distribute it effectively,” Dr Moakes told the Telegraph.

“Based on the product, it will be much quicker to get to the user than a novel drug.

“I am confident that the formulation can make an impact. Our goal is to make an impact as soon as possible, we would really like to see this happen by summer.”

In November last year, the researchers announced that laboratory experiments showed the spray prevented a coronavirus infection from spreading for up to 48 hours.

The team believes using the spray four times a day would be enough for general protection, although it is safe enough to be applied every 20 minutes if in a high-risk, densely populated environment such as schools.

Dr Moakes believes that the spray could be particularly effective in getting children back into classrooms across the country.

He said: “We think it will help in schools, as one of the good things about the formulation of the nasal spray is that it would not need to be reformulated for children.

“It means we would give it to children and adults alike, and it might be able to get schools going again.

“We also believe that the way it sprays would make it more user compliant, reducing the sensations which put people off many current nasal applicants.

“If it could facilitate getting students back to school, and education being re-established, then that would be great.”

The spray is a combination of an antiviral agent called carrageenan, commonly used in foods as a thickening agent, and a solution called gellan – a gelling agent selected for its ability to stick to cells inside the nose.

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.

Last year Professor Liam Grover, the study's co-author, said: "Although our noses filter thousands 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."