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First-ever nasal spray protects against all COVID variants

Scientists developed a molecule that, when administered nasally, effectively prevents the disease caused by all known variants COVID. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)


University of Helsinki researchers have developed a molecule that, when administered nasally, effectively prevents the disease caused by all known variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The molecule, called TriSb92, can be a crucial tool in preventing the transmission and spread of the virus, particularly in anticipation of future pandemics.


In laboratory animal studies, TriSb92 was confirmed to offer effective protection against coronavirus infection by identifying a region in the spike protein of the coronavirus that is common to all current variants of the virus and inhibiting its functioning. The molecule is effective in preventing infection when administered nasally, even after a few hours of exposure, unlike face masks.


 
 

Postdoctoral Researcher Anna R. Mäkelä from Professor Kalle Saksela’s research group explains that experiments carried out in cell cultures indicate that TriSb92 also encompasses the very latest variants, including XBB, BF7, and BQ.1.1.


Discovery of RBD-targeting sherpabodies. Six and three residues in the RT- and n-Src-loops, respectively, of the human nephrocystin SH3 domain were replaced with hexapeptides (in red) comprising random combinations of the 20 natural amino acids to create a large semisynthetic M13 phage library. (CREDIT: Nature Communications)


Moreover, the molecule remains fully functional at room temperature for at least 18 months, making it well-suited for use as a nasal spray. The results have been published in the Nature Communications journal.


 
 

While the worst stage of the coronavirus pandemic is, at least for the time being, behind us, nasally administered protection can be a crucial help in preventing the spread of the virus in the future.


The latest variants of the virus effectively avoid the immune protection provided by both vaccines and the COVID-19 disease, and current vaccines are not effective in preventing transmission, Mäkelä says. The nasal spray can also protect individuals who do not gain sufficient immunity from vaccines, such as immunocompromised individuals and the elderly.


 

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According to the researchers, the molecule could also work against future animal-borne close relatives of SARS-CoV-2, which are expected to be the cause of entirely new coronavirus pandemics.


The region in the coronavirus’s spike protein affected by the TriSb92 molecule has remained almost unchanged in all viral variants so far emerged, making it effective against future SARS-CoV-2 variants, Mäkelä confirms.


 
 

The molecule is easily and inexpensively produced and could be a very important first line of defence in curbing such a new pandemic, pending the development, production, and distribution of vaccines, she adds.


Discovery of RBD-targeting sherpabodies. Semi-quantitative ELISA-based analysis of the RBD-binding affinity (30 nM) of the sherpabody clone Sb92. (CREDIT: Nature Communications)


The sherpabody-technology used by the researchers is also applicable to the prevention of many other viral diseases, particularly influenza and other respiratory viruses.

“The whole approach stems from a technical solution based on a binder protein platform developed in Finland, which was not originally intended for the development of an antiviral drug. It provides an opportunity for many other new initiatives based on the accurate identification of diseased cells or pathogens in patients,” Mäkelä says.


 
 

In the next stage, the molecule must be tested in clinical trials, after which it could be made commercially available. “Successful commercialization of the nasal spray could lead to the creation of a thriving Finnish business,” Mäkelä points out.






For more science news stories check out our New Innovations section at The Brighter Side of News.


 

Note: Materials provided above by the The Brighter Side of News. Content may be edited for style and length.


 
 

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