6 December 2021

Fight covid and chew gum at the same time

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TMR is today recovering from a work Christmas party with the worst kind of collective hangover: a covid scare. 

It goes without saying that the team is fully vaxxed, and yet our colleague has not escaped without symptoms nor the business without some disruption. 

So it was pleasing in a too-late kind of way to read about a chewing gum that can stop covid transmission

You read that correctly: this chewy doesn’t just leave your breath minty-fresh (actually I have no idea if it does that) it also “debulks” SARS-CoV-2, i.e. reduces viral load, in your mouth. 

A large team led by Henry Daniell of the University of Pennsylvania achieved this by using the ACE2 receptor, which the SARS-CoV-2 spike binds to, as a “trap”. This technique has been used already to create covid-inhibiting nasal sprays, but it’s salivary glands that are the primary site of replication, the authors write. 

They chose chewing gum rather than mouthwash as the delivery approach because gum stays in the mouth for longer. 

In a previous study the team had created plants full of ACE2 proteins and a helper, cholera toxin B (I’d suggest keeping “cholera” and “toxin” well away from the marketing materials), and made gum out of it that resembles normal chewing gum and conserves the proteins.

They tested it against a control in various ways, including on saliva samples from covid patients, where they found dramatic viral load reductions in the presence of the protein gum. Interestingly, the placebo gum also seemed to have some antiviral activity.

While this is preclinical, they write: “We do not anticipate significant changes between in vitro experiments and oral cavity virus debulking experiments because complete debulking of virus in saliva was achieved with 50mg of gum powder in the in vitro experiments, but each chewing gum weighs 2g … a large dose of ACE2 in the chewing gum should compensate for differences in release kinetics in the oral cavity among patients.”

The team has sought approval for clinical trials.

If covid transmission can be reduced by chewing gum, we say: Huzzah!

But we also say, please don’t be 

If you see something that makes your mouth water, spitball it at felicity@medicalrepublic.com.au

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