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When COVID created a havoc in early 2020, we were completely clueless about how to deal with the virus. Cities after cities were shut down to ensure that the virus spread can be reduced, but there was hardly any respite. The wrath of the virus could be controlled only when vaccines came. 

And, in a pursuit to further refine the vaccines, now researchers are looking at concepts like omicron-specific vaccines, universal jabs and nasal sprays. Here is all that you need to know about nasal sprays, and how effective they can be in providing you protection against the virus. And, also whether they can replace the face mask. 

How do the nasal sprays work against the virus? 

For years now, Anne Moscona at Columbia University in New York City, and her colleagues had been hunting for compounds that could stop viruses in their tracks. And COVID presented them with a perfect opportunity. 

Nature reported last month, Spritz - the nasal spray developed by Moscona’s team would be fast-acting and would be applied frequently, (once or twice a day), will directly target the site where the virus first takes hold — the nasal lining and throat. 

The team claims that sprays could offer people another way to avoid infection instead of wearing a face mask. 

Meanwhile, Richard Leduc, molecular pharmacologist at the University of Sherbrooke in Canada, and his team is working on another nasal-spray compound, a small molecule that inhibits a host enzyme needed by viral particles to fuse with a target cell.

The team has already experimented with the same on mice and found that the although they contracted the virus, the severity of the infection was much less. 

Why can nasal vaccines be better than conventional shots?

The COVID-19 vaccines currently in use though reduce the severity of the infection, they don’t block mild illness or transmission that well.

This is probably because the vaccines are injected into muscles. “Intramuscular shots prompt an immune response that includes T cells, which destroy infected cells, and B cells, which produce antibodies that ‘neutralize’ pathogens, " another Nature report said. However, these antibodies circulate through the bloodstream and aren't high enough levels in the nose and lungs to provide rapid protection. ,

On the other hand, nasals can not only prompt a whole-body immune response, but they can also activate immune cells in the mucosal tissue of the nose and respiratory tract.

Can nasal spray be an effective measure to prevent COVID?

Though the concept of COVID nasal sprays sounds promising, they still face the challenge of ensuring that the compound stays in the nasal lining long enough

 “Your nose and throat are inherently designed to get rid of things," says Wendy Barclay, a virologist at Imperial College London told Nature. “You try putting something in there, and your nose runs and flushes it out."

Still, such a spray would be an important advance, especially in places where few people wear face masks. But, for the time being, it is still recommended that people continue wearing the face masks

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