A nasal spray that can prevent COVID-19 for up to two days has been developed by researchers in the UK – and it may be available over the counter by the summer, according to a report.
The spray — developed by scientists at the University of Birmingham — prevents infection by capturing the bug in the nose and covering it in a coating from which it cannot escape, The Telegraph reported.
As a result, it would be safe for someone to exhale near another person because the virus would be inactive and harmless, the outlet said.
Dr. Richard Moakes, the study’s lead researcher, said he was confident that the spray will be able to put an end to social distancing restrictions and “get schools going again.”
“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,” Moakes told The Telegraph.
“If it could facilitate getting students back to school, and education being re-established, then that would be great.”
The spray includes an antiviral agent called carrageenan — also used as a thickening agent in food — and a solution called gellan, a gelling agent that sticks to cells in the nose.
Gellan can be sprayed as fine droplets inside the nasal cavity, where it can cover the surface evenly and stay at the delivery site rather than sliding out of the nose.
These ingredients are already approved for medical use, meaning it does not require additional approval, The Telegraph noted.
“Based on the product, it will be much quicker to get to the user than a novel drug,” Moakes told the Telegraph.
“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.”
The researchers — who have been developing the spray since April 2020 — are in discussions with shops and pharmaceutical giants on the next steps to mass-produce it, The Telegraph reported. It is unclear when if or when it could become available outside of the UK.
The researchers announced in November that lab experiments showed the spray prevented an infection from spreading for up to 48 hours.
The scientists believe using it four times a day would be enough for general protection, although it is safe enough to be used every 20 minutes in a high-risk environment such as crowded schools.