A new chewing gum that neutralizes the COVID-19 virus could help reduce its spread. According to press release by the University of Pennsylvania, scientists from several universities collaborated to create what they say is a low cost option that fights coronavirus.
"SARS-CoV-2 replicates in the salivary glands, and we know that when someone who is infected sneezes, coughs, or speaks some of that virus can be expelled and reach others," said lead researcher Henry Daniell of Penn’s School of Dental Medicine. “This gum offers an opportunity to neutralize the virus in the saliva, giving us a simple way to possibly cut down on a source of disease transmission.”
Before the pandemic, Daniell had been researching a protein to help treat hypertension. His lab grew angiotensin-converting enzyme 2, or ACE2, using a patented plant-based production system. By bombarding plants with ACE2 DNA, they forced the chloroplasts to absorb and grow the proteins. By freeze-drying and grinding the material, the proteins could be delivered to patients.
Daniell and Penn Dental Medicine colleague Hyun (Michel) Koo had also collaborated on research to develop a chewing gum infused with plant-grown proteins that disrupted dental plaque. The two suspected they were onto something, and contacted Ronald Collman at Penn Medicine to find out what a trial for a COVID-fighting chewing gum might look like.
In before and after analyses of test swabs, the amount of virus present was drastically reduced after the gum triggered a reduction in viral load, according to a paper the team published in the journal Molecular Theory. In short: it seems to work.
The press release says the gum may be of particular use in dental care, in a situation in which a patient needs to take off a mask to receive treatment. If chewing gum prior to the appointment reduces the chance of COVID spread, that's an intriguing possibility.
And maybe the gum could even tempt anti-vaxxers. If we're lucky, they'll make it taste like Dubble Bubble.