August, 2022

Barts Health researchers show nasal spray can prevent Covid-19

Newly published results from a clinical trial led by Barts Health and Queen Mary University of London researchers show that a nasal spray (pHOXWELL) can reduce infection with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes Covid-19) by 62%.

The trial was carried out in India between April to July 2021, the peak surge of the highly infectious Delta variant. It involved 556 participants – 275 used pHOXWELL and 281 used a placebo (i.e. a fake nasal spray) – three times a day. After 45 days, our researchers measured how many antibodies against Covid-19 each person in both groups had.

They found that pHOXWELL was safe and that after 45 days, 13.1% of those in the group that used it had antibodies against the Covid-19 virus, compared to 34.5% in the group who received the placebo. This shows that using pHOXWELL dramatically reduces the chances of developing Covid-19.

Researchers also found that people who used the nasal spray were less likely to experience symptoms than those given the placebo. No serious side effects were reported in either group and participants noted that the nasal spray was easy to use.

Professor Rakesh Uppal, Director of Barts Life Sciences said: “pHOXWELL presents a significant breakthrough in preventing people developing Covid-19. We now have an effective tool, previously missing, to fight this virus, and is designed to offer extra protection against Covid-19, in addition to vaccines, face masks and washing our hands.

“I’m immensely proud of everyone involved in this trial and am extremely grateful to the participants who gave their time to be involved.”

The hope following the trial is for production and distribution of pHOXWELL to commence soon in India initially, before expanding into other regions to best protect people around the world.

The researchers expect that the treatment will be of particular use in areas where vaccination rates remain low and there is a shortage of personal protective equipment for those who need it, such as frontline healthcare workers.

pHOXWELL offers 6-8 hours of protection with just two sprays per nostril and is designed to be effective against other airborne respiratory viruses as well. It works by stopping SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes Covid-19 – from infecting the nasal mucosa, which is the primary entry point into the body.

Scientists from several universities and institutions collaborated to bring this research to fruition. As well as representatives from Queen Mary, Barts Health Trust and the Blizard Institute, the pHOXBIO team included Professor Dame Kay Davies, Professor Steve Davies and Professor Angela Russell from Oxford University. The Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in Brazil and numerous US-based scientists also contributed to the research and its delivery