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A team of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have studied the potential to create a chewing gum loaded with ACE2, the protein that SARS-CoV-2 attaches to attack our bodies. They envision that the oral-use medicine, dubbed CTB-ACE2), would block the viral load present in saliva and help to prevent infecting others. They also believe it could lessen the severity of COVID-19 symptoms.
According to their findings, published in the journal Cell, chewing gum could reduce the viral load in saliva by up to 95 percent.
They believe it could stop the virus in its strikes and help stop transmission when infected people talk, breathe, cough or sneeze.
Researchers led by Henry Daniell, have developed plants and chloroplasts that meet the requirements of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
According to the authors, the chewing gum “has physical characteristics and a taste similar to conventional chewing gum”.
The two grams of chewing gum they experimented with contain ACE2 proteins, which are the proteins in human cells that the S protein of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus grabs onto to infect and spread through the human body.
The experts noted in their study: “Salivary glands are the main site of SARS-CoV-2 replication.
“CE2 released by chewing gum serves as a novel approach to decrease virus infection.
“Chewing gum with virus-trapping proteins offers a generally affordable strategy to protect patients from most oral virus reinfections by reducing or minimising transmission to others.”
To get their stunning results, the researchers compared 10 saliva samples from hospitalised patients with Covid and 10 samples from volunteers free of SARS-CoV-2 infection.
They noted: “We observed a dramatic reduction in ACE2 [protein] activity in the virus-laden saliva collected from the ten patients with covid-19 compared to the ten healthy individuals.”
The experts add that although this work has focused on coronavirus, the concept of trapping viral particles in the oral cavity using a protein-containing chewing gum could also be applied to many other viruses.
It would be particularly useful for those transmitted through the mouth, such as influenza, HPV, Zika, herpes, and others.
Despite their early success, the expert acknowledges that the sample “is small” and more work needs to be done.
They said: “The sample is small, but for us, it will be no more than a piece of chewing gum with one more protein.
“In principle, it should not affect anything more than blocking the virus, as the only thing it could do is affect the function of angiotensin, which is the signaller that binds to the ACE2 protein.”
It’s also important to point out that vaccinations remain the most effective way of preventing the spread of COVID-19.
The researchers would like to see the gum being added to an ever-widening arsenal of weapons to fight the deadly virus.
Additional reporting by Maria Ortega.
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