Australian respiratory researchers are preparing to start the next stages in developing a nasal spray to protect people from viral diseases such as Covid-19 and influenza.
Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) and University of Newcastle (UON) scientists in the state of New South Wales said on Thursday that they had been working to create the spray, INNA-051, with biotech company, Ena Respiratory.
In pre-clinical studies in Sydney, the research team found the spray could boost the body's immune systems, which is the first line of defence to fight viruses that cause the common cold and flu in the nose and throat and can lead to severe lung disease.
"We discovered that INNA-051 is very effective at priming the airways to more rapidly and effectively respond to a viral infection," UON Associate Professor Nathan Bartlett said.
In the next two stages of the spray's development, due to start in January, researchers will conduct a study across several countries to determine whether INNA-051 reduces the incidence of Covid-19 among people aged 18-55 who have had close contact with others who have tested positive to the disease.
They will also evaluate the safety and efficacy of pre-exposure INNA-051 treatment in reducing the viral load of influenza in experimentally infected adult volunteers.
The researchers believe that ultimately the spray could complement vaccines, particularly where a vaccine was likely to be less effective such as among elderly patients or people with chronic lung diseases.
HMRI Director Mike Calford said it was exciting to see the institute's research "making its way from the lab and into patients."
"HMRI researchers continue to be at the forefront of translational research into treatments that improve people's wellbeing and save lives," Calford said.