A group of Turkish scientists applied to health authorities for human trials of an innovative nasal spray developed against COVID-19 and influenza. Animal trials are already completed for the spray, which has the potential to block viruses from clinging to cells.
The spray is the work of researchers led by associate professor Urartu Şeker from the National Nanotechnology Research Center (UNAM) of Bilkent University in the capital Ankara. Şeker, a molecular biology and genetics expert who is also a recipient of special awards given to scientists working in the fight against the pandemic by the Turkish Academy of Sciences (TÜBA), explained the progress in their work to Anadolu Agency (AA) on Tuesday.
Scientists began their work on the nasal spray after a study on red algae, which offers organic protection against viruses, produced a protein in the matter of bacteria, using genetic engineering for faster production.
“We discovered in our animal trials that this lectin protein prevented the infection, regardless of how close the contact that enables the infection is. Animals living in the cage were protected against viruses thanks to this protein, without a need for masks or protective measures,” he said.
He added that the protein served as protection against other viruses affecting the respiratory system and it was “binding” to sugar groups in molecules to achieve it, no matter how diverse the variants of any given virus were.
“It also gives time to the immune system to fight against the virus,” he said. On variants, Şeker said it was “five times more effective” against omicron, currently the most prevalent COVID-19 variant in Türkiye.
Researchers are now negotiatıng with a medical company for mass production of the spray.
“People might think that our spray is not necessary now (as the pandemic has receded in Türkiye). But our true motive here is protection against not just the coronavirus but others like influenza,” Şeker said.
The nasal spray primarily replaces protective masks, eliminating the need to wear one once it is applied. It does not penetrate the blood. Its period of protection varies between three and four hours against a high level of exposure to a virus, while this period is longer if the risk is lower.