Weekly use of a nasal spray could give 96 per cent protection from coronavirus, new research from Public Health England (PHE) shows.
The new preventive treatment could move to human trials within months following successful results on ferrets.
The spray was originally developed to boost natural human immunity to common colds and the flu, but has been retested to see if it would also work for coronavirus.
It is produced by Australian biotech company Ena Respiratory and works by preventing the virus from replicating in the respiratory tract.
“We’ve been amazed with just how effective our treatment has been,” said Dr Christophe Demaison, managing director of Ena Respiratory.
“By boosting the natural immune response of the ferrets with our treatment, we’ve seen a rapid eradication of the virus. If humans respond in a similar way, the benefits of treatment are two-fold. Individuals exposed to the virus would most likely rapidly eliminate it, with the treatment ensuring that the disease does not progress beyond mild symptoms. This is particularly relevant to vulnerable members of the community.
“In addition, the rapidity of this response means that the infected individuals are unlikely to pass it on, meaning a swift halt to community transmission.”
The study was led by Prof Miles Carroll, PHE’s deputy director, and is posted on the biomedical prepublication research site, medRxiv.
The results show that by boosting the immune response, the spray dramatically decreased the chance of infection, even when the ferrets were deliberately infected with the virus.
The company is seeking additional funding to accelerate the nasal spray’s clinical development and global distribution. The drug’s official name is INNA-051 and it is a synthetic small molecule which can be self-administered once or twice a week.