A NASAL spray developed by a Hunter researcher may hinder the common cold and serve as an alternative approach to address gaps in the COVID-19 vaccine coverage.
A study led by Associate Professor Nathan Bartlett, a viral immunologist with HMRI and the University of Newcastle, has shown the drug INNA-X to be effective against the common cold, as well as COVID-19.
Researchers found treatment with the drug prior to a rhinovirus infection "significantly reduced" the amount of virus and inhibited inflammation - a finding consistent with an earlier study showing INNA-X to be "highly effective" at reducing virus shedding of COVID-19.
If found protective in human trials, the drug could be used by at-risk populations such as asthma patients or the elderly to reduce the severity of colds, COVID-19 and other respiratory infections in conjunction with vaccines.
With the COVID-19 vaccine rollout due to begin in Australia by the end of February, Associate Professor Bartlett said it was important we had other options and approaches to support any gaps in the coverage.
"There are going to be gaps based on the effectiveness of the vaccine in the real world," he said.
"There are going to be people who won't get vaccinated for a variety of reasons. We are never going to get full coverage with the vaccine and I think we need to accept that's the case.
"That's why other approaches for either treating infection or preventing infection that aren't based on a vaccine are going to be really important."
Associate Professor Bartlett worked with a company called Ena Respiratory on the nasal spray that works by boosting immunity in the nose and throat.
"That makes it a lot harder for a respiratory virus like COVID to take hold and progress to more severe disease," he said.
"These other approaches will be needed in addition to a COVID vaccine and antivirals to really stop this virus from being a significant health problem in the community."
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