Could this $50 nasal spray prevent the coronavirus?
By Hannah Sparks
Don’t want to wear a mask? Suck it up.
A new $50 nasal spray is being touted as a way to squash the coronavirus.
The device, developed by Harvard’s Dr. David Edwards, delivers a calcium chloride-based solution, similar to a saline spray, which could prevent viral shedding by up to 99% for as long as six hours, Edwards claims.
It will come in a handheld pump, called the Nimbus, which can turn the mineral solution into a fine mist. The device doesn’t need to be inserted in the nose — just held nearby so its user can breathe in the mist. While it’s currently undergoing pilot testing, it could, in theory, be used by health-care workers, or in public spaces such as restaurants, as a way to stop those infected with the virus from spreading it.
Edwards, who is selling the spray via his company, Sensory Cloud, claims the solution could not only stop people from coughing out viral particles — it may also prevent its users from further inhaling those particles, infecting their lungs with the virus.
The spray “cleans the airways of the particles that potentially shuttle airborne viruses into and out of our lungs,” Edwards tells The Post. Since the spray doesn’t contain drugs, Food and Drug Administration approval isn’t needed.
His product, which he hopes people will also use during normal flu seasons, is a result of decades of research by experts including chemical engineer Dr. Michael Lipp, who co-authored a study in support of Sensory Cloud. The researchers had considered similar systems for past viral outbreaks, Lipp says.
“Back then, even with the bird flu pandemic, it just never gained traction,” he tells The Post. “But, of course, now it just seems like it’s a no-brainer.”
Lipp says people were reluctant to take up preventative measures that made them personally responsible for the health of others, rather than focus on personal well-being.
“It was always a little bit slanted towards, ‘You’re taking it yourself but you’re helping other people,’ ” he says.
Like face masks, Sensory Cloud is “more to stop you from exhaling particles than it is to block you from inhaling other people’s particles,” he says.
The calcium chloride-based solution, called FEND, isn’t just any saline nasal spray that can be purchased over the counter as a nasal decongestant, such as Afrin or Zicam. Lipp says the addition of calcium in their therapy is critical — and a result of several studies that put the mineral’s “antiviral” properties to the test.
The discovery was part luck, according to Lipp, who says they originally added calcium, still considered “safe” enough for multiple daily whiffs, as a “placebo.”
“We were really surprised . . . But then when we measured people exhaling particles, it really knocked it down,” he says.
They’ve since tested the system on animals and humans, to treat smallpox, swine flu, anthrax and other airborne diseases. Over and over, the calcium-fortified saline was able to significantly mitigate the exhalation of infected respiratory droplets.
What’s more, it also proved to support personal prevention, reducing infection “in both directions.”
“This is doing more than stopping them from expelling particles, it’s actually doing something to help their [personal] outcome,” Lipp says.
A study of 10 human volunteers found that the FEND solution with the Nimbus aerosol delivery pump “reduces exhaled particles between 45% and 99%,” according to the report recently published in the Cambridge Coronavirus Collection. However, the study size was relatively small, and more testing is needed.
The spray delivers a chemical reaction which traps infected droplets that might ordinarily get launched into the air (or travel farther into the body) when you cough or sneeze. At the same time, the pump delivers the spray to a very specific part of the body — in the viral hot zone between your trachea and bronchi. The particle size it produces, 10 microns, is considered too big to travel all the way to your lungs, but too small to get trapped in your nostrils.
Unfortunately, the system, which ships preorders in September, won’t get you out of wearing a face mask.
“Cleaning our airways of these particles is a hygienic measure that complements the wearing of face masks, the washing of hands and social distancing,” says Edwards in a recent press release.