COVID-19 nasal spray a potential 'game changer'

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(NewsNation) — Researchers at UC Berkeley are developing a nasal spray that can prevent and treat COVID-19, with early data showing it could be a “game changer” in the fight against the virus.

While the vaccines developed have largely targeted the spike protein on the outside of the virus, the nasal spray focuses on the heart of the virus instead. Data from first sets of tests show the spray appears to work against all current variants and future variants.

Professor Anders Naar, one of the lead researchers, explained that’s because the spray targets the virus’ RNA strain in an attempt to block the virus from duplicating in human cells.

“The virus is basically like a trojan horse,” Naar said Sunday on “NewsNation Prime.” “It injects RNA into a cell … and turns into its personal copy machine.”

Targeting the RNA strain would turn off that copy machine, Naar said.

The hope is that a nasal spray can make major headway in COVID-19 prevention efforts because it is easy to manufacture, ship and store. Unlike vaccines that have to be stored at cold temperatures, a nasal spray would be able to survive at room temperature.

“You can basically get this to people where there is no refrigeration or freezing capacity,” Naar said.

It might also appeal to the vaccine-hesitant population because of its easy application.

Tests have been conducted on mice and hamsters, and no adverse effects have been identified, Naar said. The next phase of research is animal trials and then human trials.

“We’re probably a year or two away from actually having this deployed if everything goes well,” Naar said.

Testing has also shown that the spray can reduce symptoms for those already infected with coronavirus. For Naar and his fellow researchers, they say it’s a potential game changer.

One doctor who is following the developments is Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease specialist at UCSF Medical Center.

“On paper it seems great, I’m very excited about it moving onto the next level,” Chin-Hong said. “I’m very hopeful about it, in terms of it not being spike-protein dependent, portable and easy-to-scale globally and being easy to administer. Not having human studies yet gives me some pause, but if I were an investor, I’d want to invest in it. It checks all the boxes, except how it performs in humans, that remains to be seen.”

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