Nasal spray could potentially treat COVID-19, NIH says

The director for the National Institutes of Health announced this week the progress of a nasal spray being developed to treat COVID-19. 

"I’m pleased to share progress in the development of a specially engineered therapeutic antibody that could be delivered through a nasal spray. Preclinical studies also suggest it may work even better than existing antibody treatments to fight COVID-19, especially now that new SARS-CoV-2 "variants of concern" have become increasingly prevalent," said NIH director Dr. Francis Collins. 

Collins’ announcement was posted in a blog on the NIH website and follows the release of findings from Chinese researchers and The University of Texas which is supported by the NIH. 

The nasal spray contains COVID-19 antibodies that enter through primary sites of infection like the nasal cavities, making it harder for the virus to enter these areas and infect the rest of the body. 

Collins says while researchers have licensed this new antibody treatment, further testing is needed in a clinical trial. 

"If all goes well, the hope is that we’ll have a safe and effective nasal spray to serve as an extra line of defense in the fight against COVID-19," Collins wrote. 

The NIH has been testing a variety of potential treatments to fight the novel coronavirus. 

Earlier this month, NIH researchers say they identified a drug, TEMPOL, as a promising oral antiviral drug that can potentially limit SARS-CoV-2, the disease that causes COVID-19, by impairing the disease’s viral enzyme otherwise known as the RNA replicate. 

The RNA replicate is the enzyme that allows the virus to replicate its genetic material and make copies of itself once it has infected a host cell.

"We urgently need additional effective, accessible treatments for COVID-19," said Diana W. Bianchi, M.D., Director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). "An oral drug that prevents SARS-CoV-2 from replicating would be an important tool for reducing the severity of the disease."

Several drugs are already recommended to treat people hospitalized with COVID-19, according to the NIH. These include the antiviral drug remdesivir.

In October, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved remdesivir, an antiviral medication developed by Gilead Sciences, as a treatment for COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization.

The drug was the first fully approved treatment in the United States for COVID-19.

RELATED: Pfizer begins phase 1 study of oral COVID-19 treatment drug

In March, Pfizer began studying an oral antiviral drug with the hopes of treating COVID-19. The company said the drug in the trial, which is currently being conducted in the U.S., has already shown promising potential in treating people infected with the novel coronavirus as well as other coronaviruses.

On March 7, FOX News medical contributor Dr. Marc Siegel revealed on "FOX & Friends Weekend" that another new possible medication to treat coronavirus-positive patients could be enough to turn the pandemic on its head. First-stage testing of the experimental COVID-19 pill called Molnupiravir, by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, showed promising signs of effectiveness in reducing the virus in patients.

RELATED: COVID-19 pill effective in preliminary testing may be 'holy grail' of pandemic, doctor says

The drug would function as an at-home, five-day treatment, similar to Tamiflu, to stop the virus from reproducing before causing major damage. Siegel said the therapeutic could come to market in as little as four to five months.

The NIH also recommends other treatments for COVID-19 on their website.