Covid: Special chewing gum could capture virus particles in saliva – new study

Jens Spahn' statement on Germany's coronavirus winter status

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With mask wearing currently recognised as the most effective method of preventing transmission between people, other methods have been looked at that reduce the amount of virus in our breath. Writing in the Cell journal Molecular Therapy a group of Pennsylvania researchers believe they have developed a chewing gum could offer a cheap method to protect against reinfection. Infected people chewing the gum that could also reduce the number of people they spread the virus to. The primary site where the virus replicates is the mouth, where it can be spread through the air.

The study took mouth swabs from Covid patients before and after chewing the experimental gum.

Treatment with the gum reduced the amount of coronavirus in the swabs by 95 percent.

This greatly reduces the chance that they can go on to infect other people when breathing or coughing.

The placebo had a much milder impact but still showed better results than patients who chewed no gum.

Without treatment a millilitre of saliva can hold an average 7 million copies of RNA virus.

People with more severe symptoms often have a greater amount of virus in their mouth and saliva glands.

The gum contains an enzyme called ACE2, which the coronavirus is able to bind to.

ACE2 receptors on our cells are used as a point of entry by the virus, which is why the virus binds to the ACE2 enzyme found in the gum.

The chewing gum can be stored for years at normal temperatures without damage.

No protein was lost during the process of “gum compression”, known as chewing to those outside the molecular therapy community.

This could be an important consideration as the logistics of frozen vaccine storage proved to be a significant issue during the first rollout of vaccines.

The gum was also cheap to produce, using a different technique to typical gum manufacture that operates at lower temperatures.

The viral load is a technical term used to describe how many copies of the virus can be found in a place.

Larger viral loads are far more contagious, with the delta variant being 1,260 times higher than previous strains.

Reducing the viral load, even if not to zero can still have a significant impact on the ability of the virus to spread.

Antimicrobial mouthwashes do not stay in your mouth for a long time, limiting the effect they can have.

The applications of the gum extend beyond reducing the transmission in everyday settings.

The researchers believe it could allow for safer dental operations on Covid patients, reducing the risk that dentists contract the virus.

They also believe that further research into the ACE2 protein and receptor could allow for easier saliva testing for the virus.

The production of the experimental gum involved the development of an altered lettuce that produced the enzyme and could then be used as an ingredient for the chewing gum.

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