The COVID-19 pandemic, which has now affected over 100 million people across the world, has put many microbiologists to work to find viable solutions. While health care professionals work day and night in their laboratories to develop tests, vaccines and treatments, Turkish scientists have managed to develop a nasal spray that can kill the coronavirus in just one minute.
The solution named Genoxyn, which completely kills the virus, was developed by associate professor Dr. Şehime Gülsün Temel, operator Dr. Ahmet Ümit Sabancı and Dr. Cüneyt Özakın, a faculty member of Uludağ University's Medical Microbiology Department in Bursa.
The researchers collaborated with academics from Uludağ and Çukurova universities to test the developed solution’s antimicrobial and antiviral effects. The study found that the solution prevented the reproduction of bacteria and viruses.
Sabancı said he had been carrying out his studies on protection from disease before the coronavirus pandemic started. "With Cüneyt Özakın, we showed that the solution has antibacterial activity, and after the pandemic began, we thought about whether we could develop this solution to contribute to (the fight against) COVID-19. So, we refined a new oral and nasal spray and sent it to biocompatibility tests,” he said.
It was already known that the transmission points of the virus were the mouth and nose, as well as the eyes.
"Our studies determined that the solution killed the virus in the mouth and in nose tissue. The death of the virus in a short time means preventing its entry into the cells and reducing the number of viruses in the body. If the solution can prevent contamination, it will be a good protector for us," Sabancı explained.
Temel, meanwhile, said they proved the solution kills the virus within a minute and, most importantly, showed that the solution does not damage people's epithelial cells in their mucous membranes. "We have even shown that it has a healing effect on these cells. Therefore, this means that it is safe to use as it does not harm human cells," she said.
While vaccines and drugs have been at the forefront of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, the nasal spray developed at Uludağ University has shown how the coronavirus can be eradicated with other drugs and treatments.
Experts have also been advocating for boosting the immune system against COVID-19 when an infection might be more likely, especially for children attending schools in countries where education is still carried out in-person.
Özakın, on the other hand, said that Sabancı came up with this solution two years ago for it to be tested for its antimicrobial activities. "Based on international methods, we found out that the solution was a product that could be used with some effects such as tissue healing and the prevention of inflation. The primary ingredient of the developed product was known for years; however, there were problems in its use for human health. It did not have a permanent effect, and its structure was deteriorating rapidly,” he explained.
“After new developments were made on the product, the product's effects became more permanent with the latest technological applications. With the nanotechnological applications, it began to show a long-lasting impact through the particular molecules it binds. Also, the fact that it has biocompatibility, which means it acts without damaging human tissues and cells, has enabled us to make it usable for human health," Özakın said.
Özakın said they had initially tested the solution's antiviral effectiveness against common viruses, but when the coronavirus pandemic began, their focus switched to SARS-CoV-2. After conducting the necessary tests, the three researchers demonstrated that the solution has a direct effect on the novel coronavirus.
"We have demonstrated that it has a lethal effect against bacteria, fungi and especially SARS-CoV-2," Özakın said.
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