Story at a glance

  • Six ferrets were given the treatment and put in three separate cages in groups of two.
  • Two ferrets that were given a placebo were put in each cage along with one that had recently been infected with the novel coronavirus.
  • Scientists said none of the animals treated with the nasal spray contracted the virus after 24 hours.

Researchers have developed a nasal spray treatment that appears to prevent coronavirus infections in ferrets and could potentially be used to protect humans from contracting the SARS-CoV-2 virus, according to a report from the New York Times

A small study funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Columbia University Medical Center that has yet to be peer-reviewed details how the nasal spray protected ferrets from becoming infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. 


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Six ferrets were given the treatment and put in three separate cages in groups of two. Two ferrets that were given a placebo were put in each cage along with one that had recently been infected with the novel coronavirus. 

Scientists said none of the animals treated with the nasal spray contracted the virus after 24 hours, while the ferrets given a placebo became infected. 

“Virus replication was completely blocked,” the study said. 

The experimental preventative treatment was developed by researchers from Columbia University Medical Center, Erasmus Medical Center and Cornell University. Researchers use ferrets to study respiratory diseases because the animals can become infected through the nose, similar to humans. 

“If it works this well in humans, you could sleep in a bed with someone infected or be with your infected kids and still be safe,” Anne Moscona, a pediatrician and microbiologist from Columbia University Medical Center and co-author of the study, told the New York Times. 

Moscona said the spray attaches to cells in the nose and lungs and is effective for about 24 hours. The researcher said the team of scientists would need additional funding to conduct clinical trials of the treatment in humans. 

The study has been submitted to the journal Science to be peer-reviewed, according to the New York Times. 

The preliminary study comes as the world is racing to develop a COVID-19 vaccine amid worsening outbreaks in the U.S. and Europe. 

On Thursday, the U.S. set a grim new COVID-19 record — surpassing 120,000 infections in a single day.


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Published on Nov 06, 2020