The coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 has infected nearly 97,000 people since December and the epidemic shows no signs of stopping. There is currently no known cure that could stop the viral threat but the world’s brightest minds are focused on a solution.
Some scientists have proposed testing widely available anti-HIV drugs to fight the epidemic.
Others have proposed much more novel ideas that would take the fight directly to the virus.
Chemical engineer Thomas Webster from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, has proposed eradicating the coronavirus with nanoparticles.
These microscopic particles would match the structure of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and would be ten thousand times smaller than the width of a hair.
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He said: “You have to think in this size range. In the nanoscale size range, if you want to detect viruses, if you want to deactivate them.”
The proposed treatment suggests nanoparticles of similar sizes could latch onto individual SARS-CoV-2 viruses.
The particles would then disrupt their structures under infrared light treatment.
The goal is to stop the viruses’ ability to survive and reproduce in the patient’s body.
Nanotechnology researchers in Japan have proposed similar countermeasures, by developing a spray which they claim can stop a virus’ ability to spread.
Professor Webster and his colleagues specialise in developing nanoparticles that can target and fight microbes responsible for tuberculosis and influenza.
You have to think in this size range
Thomas Webster, Northeastern University
Their research is called theranostics and it combines diagnosis and therapy into a combined approach.
He said: “It’s not just having one approach to detect whether you have a virus and another is to use it as a therapy, but having the same particle the same approach, for both your detection and therapy.”
The SARS-CoV-2 virus first emerged in China’s Hubei Province last December and has spread like wildlife around the globe.
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The virus, which has so far killed at least 3,305 people, targets the respiratory system with flu-like symptoms and pneumonia – a disease known as COVID-19.
SARS-CoV-2 is most likely spread on tiny droplets of bodily fluids when coughing or sneezing, but also when talking and breathing.
Coronavirus studies also show the pathogen can likely survive on various surfaces for a few days, making it much more infectious.
But the virus can be stopped from spreading by spraying down surfaces with nanoparticles.
Professor Webster said: Even if it was on a surface, on someone’s countertop, or an iPhone, it doesn’t mean anything because it’s not the active form of the virus.”
However, researchers will need to first fully understand the structure and inner workings of the coronavirus before they can develop a surefire cure.
Professor Webster said: “You have to identify what we need to put in our nanoparticle to attract it to that virus.
“The CDC must know that, because they’ve developed a kit that can determine if you have COVID-19, versus influenza or something else.”
The scientist added there are not many researchers working on nanoparticles that could kill viruses.
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