During the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah 2020, Israeli researchers realized they had a solid real-world opportunity to try out a nasal spray they were developing as a COVID-19 defense.
As the Jewish faith’s new year, tens of thousands would be traveling and attending synagogue and related festivals in the densely populated city of Bnei Brak—making it an ideal testing site.
Approved in Israel, Taffix, a spray created by Nasus Pharma, creates a barrier of both mechanical and chemical protection for around five hours when inhaled through the nose. It was this spray that its co-creator, Dalia Megiddo, offered to a Bnei Brak rabbi for use in the festivals.
83 people agreed to use the spray before the festivals according to instructions—reapplying every five hours until the celebrations were over. Remarkably, of the 83 people who used the nasal spray, only two people caught COVID-19; both reported forgetting to use it. Of the 160 people who were approached but chose not to use the nasal spray, 16 of them—or 10%—did contract the virus.
Nasal sprays are being tested in several research institutes as effective defenses for COVID-19, which makes sense: While the mouth is an extremely hostile environment for viruses, the nose is much less defended.
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The Telegraph reports that researchers at the University of London are working on the first set of clinical trials for a nasal spray: nitric oxide is its active ingredient, and it’s proven to both kill 99.9% of the virus that causes COVID-19, and grant protection against incoming and outgoing viruses.
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Nitric oxide is something that is found and produced in red blood cells, but it also kills viruses virtually on contact. Pankaj Sharma, a Professor of Neurology working on the University of London trial, sees nasal sprays as a game-changer because they disrupt the structural integrity of the virus independent of antibodies or other immune cells.
“If we take the South African variant, once it touches nitric oxide it’s going to be structurally destroyed anyway; the fact that it has got a different RNA profile makes no difference to nitric oxide,” he told the Telegraph.
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Furthermore, since it’s simply an endogenous chemical, similar to taking something like a melatonin supplement, he can’t imagine why anyone would choose not to use it, or why anyone would have adverse reactions to it.
Featured image: Robin_24, CC license
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