COVID-19 nasal spray starts clinical development in the U.K.

Coronavirus Sars-CoV-2 under an electron microscope
SaNOtize envisages its nasal spray being used at multiple points throughout the day. (Getty Images)

U.K. physicians have begun clinical development of a nasal spray designed to prevent infection with the coronavirus and treat mild to moderate cases of COVID-19. The spray delivers nitric oxide into the nasal passages to destroy the virus at a site it uses to enter the body and begin replicating.

SaNOtize Research and Development, the Canadian developer of the candidate, began phase 2 trials of the nasal spray in its home market after generating preclinical evidence of efficacy, including a rapid 95% reduction in viral load in rodents. The clinical development program spread to the U.K. this week, where physicians began enrolling subjects in the first European assessment of the prospect.

Some researchers have generated evidence inhaled nitric oxide improves outcomes in patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome linked to COVID-19, but other groups saw minimal improvement. Despite the mixed evidence, SaNOtize sees potential to expand use of the molecule into other patients. 

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Chris Miller, chief scientific officer and co-founder of SaNOtize, envisages the nasal spray being used at multiple points throughout the day to counter infections early, as he explained in a statement. 

“In the morning when you get up, where the virus has shed and started collecting in the back of your upper airway, first spray of the day, and then you go out into the day, and you can’t always control social distancing as we end lockdown, and so we have nasal sprays throughout the day. At the end of the day you come home and you basically rinse your nose and your nasopharynx, so that will clean your nose, your sinuses, and the back of your throat where these viruses initially reside,” Miller said.  

As the nose is a key early infection site in many COVID-19 cases, SaNOtize sees the nasal spray as a way to stop the pathogen from taking root and spreading to the lungs. Studies underway in Canada and the U.K. could help validate that hypothesis. If the Canadian trial is a success, SaNOtize will seek emergency approval in its home market.