Exploring Alternative COVID-19 Treatments

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Imagine treating COVID-19, one of the most feared diseases of 2020, with a simple nose spray or gargle. This fantasy has the potential to be realized in the future. Without a vaccine, scientists are scrambling to find a cure for the virus, attempting to find ways to stall its spread. A majority of studies on COVID-19 prevention deal with the nasal area, which is believed to be the primary location where SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19, enters the human body. It is helpful to look into current treatment studies, as they show possible alternatives that can be further researched to provide effective treatment during this pandemic.

Studies have shown how SARS-CoV-2 “gains its foothold by infecting certain nasal cells.” This means that directly targeting cells within the nose could lead to a quicker solution in preventing the virus. In a study by Menni et al. published in Nature Medicine, a “total of 2,618,862 participants reported their potential symptoms of COVID-19 on a smartphone-based app. Among the 18,401 who had undergone a SARS-CoV-2 test, the proportion of participants who reported loss of smell and taste was higher in those with a positive test result…” This supports the fact that there is a correlation between the nasal area and COVID-19. In addition, an article in the European Respiratory Journal states how scientists conducted a scan in which the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) enzyme, which is connected to cells in the respiratory system that decrease blood pressure, showed a signal confirming “high levels in the human olfactory epithelium relative to upper airway epithelial cells.” The human olfactory epithelium is the tissue area in the nose responsible for the sense of smell. Therefore, since there are high levels of the ACE2 enzyme (that SARS-CoV-2 reacts to) in the cells of the epithelium, the nose must be the primary location for effective treatment.

One treatment for COVID-19 deals with nanobodies, which are essentially shorter, sturdier antibodies, or proteins used to eradicate viruses and bacteria in the immune system. The idea is for scientists to use these nanobodies, which are “found in camels, llamas, and alpacas” (ScienceNews) to bind with SARS-CoV-2 antigens (substances of the virus in the body) and effectively neutralize, or destroy, them before they reach critical points in the body. A paper concerning nanobodies that was published in the journal bioRxiv found that a nanobody could neutralize SARS-CoV-2 through “single-domain antibodies (nanobodies) that potently disrupt the interaction between the SARS-CoV-2 Spike and ACE2,” revealing that nanobodies are a potential solution to counteract COVID-19. As of now, the nanobodies have not been tested on humans, and scientists are still researching their properties. However, the research suggests that one possible treatment is a nasal spray that would send nanobodies into the nose and eliminate any trace of the virus.

Another treatment is the use of povidone-iodine to clean the nasal area through a liquid solution. Articles in journals such as PMC, Ear, Nose & Throat Journal, and ClinicalTrials all show the idea of utilizing a povidone-iodine solution as a rinse in the throat and nose. This provides a cheaper way of preventing COVID-19 because liquid solutions of povidone-iodine are easy to produce and are marketable as an antiseptic. The PMC article talks about how the virus reacted when in contact with the solution in an external environment, where “PVP-I oral antiseptic preparations rapidly inactivated SARS-CoV-2 virus...” Similar to the nanobodies, a nose spray or oral medicine can be made with povidone-iodine, washing away the virus completely. This also has not been tested with humans but shows promising results in future studies, such as a study in ClinicalTrials where workers are currently utilizing povidone-iodine products to test its effectiveness. According to the ScienceNews article, “Other researchers are turning to an even more low-tech solution: a mixture of soap and salt… A current clinical trial is designed to look for effects of baby shampoo mixed with a salt solution on the symptoms and possible spreading of SARS-CoV-2 in people who have COVID-19.”

Finding different treatments for COVID-19 is critical to today’s landscape. The effects of the virus aren’t new to anyone: it has damaged many livelihoods economically, socially, and emotionally. The treatments, while still in their preliminary stages, give the hope of at least slowing down the spread of COVID-19 until a vaccine is created (which will take many more months to do). Even if they may not completely destroy the virus, studying these treatments will help society determine prevention methods and allow more time to develop a vaccine.