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Promising lab tests

Fife firm’s nasal spray could hold key to Covid-19

Scientists say drug could be administered by nasal spray

A spin-out company in Fife may have developed an antiviral drug that can block the coronavirus getting into the lungs. 

Neumifil, used as a nasal spray to treat flu, could play a big part in tackling the deadly Covid-19 pandemic, say scientists.

Public health officials are monitoring lab tests of Neumifil created by Pneumagen, a spin-off company focused on new treatments for infectious diseases and cancer at the University of St Andrews.

Neumifil works by blocking the coronavirus’s interaction with structures called ACE-2 receptors in the airways, which are the virus’s doorway into the body. Mailonline reports that these receptors are a big point of focus for scientists trying to stop the disease.

There is speculation that nicotine may reduce numbers of the receptors. and some suggest they could be a reason that smokers appear to have lower rates of serious illness when infected with COVID-19.

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Some scientists have suggested that smoking cigarettes may actually protect people against the coronavirus by altering levels of ACE-2.

Lead researcher Gary Taylor, professor of biology at St Andrews, told MailOnline: ‘Classic antivirals actually attack some part of the virus’s machinery, whereas our drug actually inhibits the virus from even getting into cells. 

“We envision it being given as a nasal spray, and imagine it being given weekly or every other day.”

In the University of St Andrews lab trials, Neumifil was able to both prevent and treat coronavirus infection in three separate studies in test tubes.

The studies were conducted at Public Health England’s Porton Down lab in Wiltshire, and at the University of Glasgow’s MRC Centre for Virus Research.

Following the promising results, scientists are now pushing to have the drug trialled on animals and eventually humans. 

Pneumagen had already been developing Neumifil to treat respiratory tract infections (RTIs) including the flu and respiratory syncytial birus (RSV).

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Comment: how Scots could be on to the next innovation

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