The U.S. Department of Defense has granted the University of Louisville $8.5 million to develop and test a nasal spray to prevent serious viral respiratory infections such as COVID-19.
The one-year project would use a plant-derived compound called Q-Griffithsin or Q-GRFT, that is already under clinical trials to see if it can prevent HIV infections.
According to Science Magazine, Kenneth E. Palmer, executive director of the Owensboro Cancer Research Program at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, is heading the project called PREVENT-CoV.
“The idea is to deliver the antiviral agent to the location in the body where the virus is known to replicate first, the upper respiratory tract,” he said. Q-GRFT is a powerful anti-viral agent that has been shown to be effective in thwarting viruses such as MERS, SARS-CoV, and SARS-CoV-2.
The nasal spray would be used once a day to prevent COVID-19 and would initially be authorized to protect frontline healthcare workers, military personal living in close quarters, and other essential workers. According to Science Magazine, it could also be helpful for vulnerable people who are not fully protected by a vaccine.
If the first clinical trial is effective, researchers could apply for emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration as early as the latter part of 2021.
Nasal sprays that are iodine-based have also been considered to help in the COVID-19 battle. Dr. Samuel Barone, a founding board member of Halodine LLC, says his nasal spray has been used for decades to help protect hospitalized patients and healthcare workers as well as consumers. In a lab-based clinical trial, it was found to kill 99.99% of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in 15 seconds. The scientists are recruiting volunteers for human testing.