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Scientists develop chewing gum which could finally end COVID pandemic

Can Chewing Gum Finally End the COVID Pandemic — And Stop the Flu, Too? Scientists create new confection that traps virus particles in saliva, relieves symptoms and lowers transmission risk

  • The chewing gum contains a vegetable protein that traps the Covid-19 virus in the saliva, slowing down the transmission from person to person and from cell to cell.
  • The chewing gum was developed by a team led by Dr. Henry Daniell of the Penn School of Dental Medicine, with help from scientists from the Perelman School of Medicine
  • Researchers prepare to launch first human trial and hope the chewing gum could serve as a low-cost and easy-to-use option to fight Covid-19

Scientists have developed a chewing gum that they say can trap COVID-19 in saliva, reducing symptoms and lowering the risk of transmitting the virus.

The chewing gum contains a vegetable protein that traps the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the saliva, slowing down transmission not only from person to person, but also from cell to cell in patients.

That protein is normally used by COVID to enter the cells when infecting a person. But by replicating it, scientists at the Penn School of Dental Medicine have been able to confine the virus to the mouth of a person who chews gum.

The treatment was developed by a team led by Dr. Henry Daniell of the Penn School of Dental Medicine, with help from scientists from the Perelman School of Medicine and the Penn School of Veterinary Medicine.

Researchers are preparing to launch the first clinical trial and hope the chewing gum can serve as a low-cost and easy-to-use option for fighting Covid-19.

“We are already using masks and other physical barriers to reduce the chances of transmission,” Daniell . said Penn today“This gum could be used as an extra aid in that fight.”

Before and after images of SARS-CoV-2 infected microbubbles in a patient.  Infection rates dropped dramatically after ACE2 gum treatment

Before and after images of SARS-CoV-2 infected microbubbles in a patient. Infection rates dropped dramatically after ACE2 gum treatment

The 'viral trap' ACE2 proteins in the chewing gum (above) are carried in engineered lettuce cells

The ‘viral trap’ ACE2 proteins in the chewing gum (above) are carried in engineered lettuce cells

The chewing gum contains copies of the ACE2 protein found on cell surfaces that the coronavirus uses to break into and infect cells.

In test-tube experiments with saliva from individuals infected with the Delta or Omicron variants, the virus particles attached to the ACE2 “receptors” in the chewing gum and the viral load dropped to undetectable levels, researchers reported in Biomaterials.

The ‘viral trap’ ACE2 proteins in the chewing gum are carried in engineered lettuce cells. A second experimental gum made with bean powder instead of lettuce cells captures not only SARS-CoV-2 particles in lab experiments, but also strains of flu, other coronaviruses that cause the common cold and possibly other oral viruses such as human papillomavirus and herpesvirus, according to the paper.

“SARS-CoV-2 replicates in the salivary glands, and we know that when someone who is infected sneezes, coughs or speaks, some of that virus can be expelled and reach others,” Daniell said. neutralize the virus in the saliva, giving us an easy way to potentially reduce a source of disease transmission.’

Before the 2020 pandemic consumed the world, Daniell was studying the ACE2 protein as part of research into the treatment of hypertension.

ACE2 had previously been shown to reduce viral loads in patients, and after hearing of work at dental school developing protein-infused gum to fight plaque, Daniell began to wonder if the same principle could be used to treat Covid -19 to fight.

“Henry contacted me and asked if we had samples to test his approach, which samples would be suitable for testing and if we could internally validate the level of SARS-CoV-2 virus in the saliva samples,” he said. Ronald Collman, a virologist at Penn Medicine who participated in the project, said: “That led to a cross-school collaboration that built on our microbiome studies.”

The chewing gum was developed by a team led by Dr.  Henry Daniell (above) of the Penn School of Dental Medicine, with help from scientists from the Perelman School of Medicine and the Penn School of Veterinary Medicine

The chewing gum was developed by a team led by Dr. Henry Daniell (above) of the Penn School of Dental Medicine, with help from scientists from the Perelman School of Medicine and the Penn School of Veterinary Medicine

A graph showing how the ACE2-laced gum interacts with Covid-19 viruses and inhibits transmission

A graph showing how the ACE2-laced gum interacts with Covid-19 viruses and inhibits transmission

The researchers now plan to start clinical trials in hopes of eventually bringing the chewing gum to market as another tool in the preventive arsenal against Covid.

During the trial, COVID-19 patients would chew four ACE2 gum tablets every day for four days.

Collman said that if it scales, the gum could be an affordable solution for Covid prevention — and it could also be deployed on other viruses, including the flu.

‘Henry’s approach to making the proteins in plants and using them orally is cheap, hopefully scalable; it’s really smart,” he said.

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