New nasal spray protects against COVID-19, common cold

Monday, 29 March, 2021

New nasal spray protects against COVID-19, common cold

Australian researchers have found that a new drug, designed to prime the immune system in the respiratory tract and currently in development for COVID-19, is also effective against rhinovirus.

Rhinovirus is the most common respiratory virus, the main cause of the common cold and responsible for exacerbations of chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In a new study published in the European Respiratory Journal, the drug candidate known as INNA-X is shown to be effective against rhinovirus in a preclinical infection model and in human airway cells.

Developed by Australian biotech company Ena Respiratory, INNA-X works by stimulating the innate immune system in the airways, the first line of defence against the invasion of respiratory viruses into the body. This immune priming makes it much more difficult for viruses such as rhinoviruses to take hold, cause serious symptoms and spread.

University of Newcastle and Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) researcher Associate Professor Nathan Bartlett, who led the new study, said INNA-X shows great promise as a way to protect people from diseases caused by common respiratory viruses such as rhinovirus, as treatment with INNA-X prior to infection with rhinovirus significantly reduced viral load and inhibited harmful inflammation. INNA-X has been also shown to be highly effective at reducing virus shedding of SARS-CoV-2.

“Consistent with what we have reported for other respiratory viruses including SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), INNA-X treatment prior to infection reduced the level of virus in the respiratory tract,” Assoc Prof Bartlett said.

“We have also examined the effect of INNA-X in airway cells from patients with asthma, which we know have a less effective anti-viral immune response, and found that INNA-X treatment was effective providing a rationale for the use of INNA-X in at-risk populations.”

Human trials of Ena Respiratory’s clinical candidate, INNA-051, are set to begin in Australia imminently. “If found protective,” Assoc Prof Bartlett said, “this could be used by at-risk populations including elderly or asthma patients, to reduce the severity of rhinovirus, COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses’ infections in conjunction with vaccine approaches.”

Image caption: A mock-up of the immune-boosting nasal spray in the HMRI labs in Newcastle.

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