A Seaweed Nasal Spray May Combat COVID

A seaweed extract called iota-carrageenan, when administered by nasal spray, has shown promise for a quick and easy way to fight COVID by trapping much of the virus before it can take hold in our bodies. 

What does research show about this approach, and does it have the potential for other anti-COVID measures?

Carrageenan Might Prevent Virus From Taking Hold in Nose

Extracted from edible seaweed, carrageenan comes in three forms: Iota, Kappa, and Lamda. It’s used in cooking to thicken foods and has been added to processed foods since the 1950s.

Later, research found this plant extract also has potent effects against the common cold virus in laboratory testing.

More recently, scientists looked at iota-carrageenan combined with saline solution in a nasal spray to discover it effectively inhibited COVID-19 infection. Researchers noted that the mixture is already approved for human use in Argentina to help prevent colds and flu.

“The mechanism of action is believed to be one of preventing the binding and entry of viral particles into nasal epithelial cells,” Donald J. Alcendor Ph.D., adjunct associate professor of pathology, microbiology, and immunology at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, told The Epoch Times.

He added that it might work because carrageenan mimics heparin sulfate—a substance the COVID virus can bind with in our body—and can trap the virus to prevent infection. 

Afterward, the trapped virus probably moves through the nasal cavity and down the throat, to be destroyed by stomach acid. 

The virus invasion failed in the nose. The advantage of a nasal spray is “no pills and it goes right to the place where the action is,” said Carl Fichtenbaum, MD, clinical professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

The drug has also shown “non-specific action against different groups of viruses including influenza and emerging variants of the same virus [influenza],” added Alcendor.

Carrageenan Has a Good Safety Profile

2021 review of studies found some test subjects experienced puffy or dry eyes, although the compound showed a good safety profile overall.

“Iota-carrageenan is thought to be safe, tolerable, and lacks interaction with other medication,” said Alcendor.

Fichtenbaum emphasized that any intervention may have side effects, and more research is needed to understand iota-carrageenan fully.

Clinical Trials Already Underway

A single-center, phase III, double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial is underway to assess whether carrageenan nasal and throat spray reduces the risk of development and severity of COVID-19. 

Meanwhile, researchers at Swansea University started recruiting for a separate clinical trial in 2021.

They are testing if Carragelose, a patented version of iota-carrageenan, can prevent COVID-19 or reduce its severity of symptoms.

Nasitrol is an iota-carrageenan nose spray available in the U.S. However, the manufacturer received an FDA warning letter for marketing “an unapproved and misbranded product related to COVID-19,” in January 2022. 

The product is now marketed as a nasal spray for sinus irrigation.

Another iota carrageenan nasal spray available on Amazon.com is Betadine Cold Defence Nasal Spray:

Expert Doubtful Carrageenan Could Be Used Except Nasally

Robert G. Lahita, MD, Ph.D., director of the Institute for Autoimmune and Rheumatic Disease at Saint Joseph Health, and author of “Immunity Strong,” is doubtful that carrageenan could be effective when taken in other ways, such as by mouth.

“I think it has to go where the mucosal immunity is, and that is largely the nasal pharynx [upper throat behind the nose] and the nose,” he explained. 

Lahita pointed out that there is an immune system in the mucus membranes of the nose and the upper nasal pharynx called the secretory immune response.

“So that is what we’re banking on, when a nasal spray or [nasal] vaccine happens to be used,” he said. 

However, when taking something orally, it’s going to get into the mouth, go down the esophagus, and get inactivated in the stomach with the stomach acid.

Potential Benefits of Nasally Applied Vaccines and Antivirals

Lahita believes a nose spray COVID vaccine is “a very interesting concept,” and one that could be used in the future for people who are afraid of needles, and those who want a more efficient defense against Omicron.

Lahita added that nasal vaccines can also help when there are vaccine shortages. 

“I remember when we became short on flu virus, this is going back maybe ten, fifteen years,” he said. “So we wound up spraying an attenuated virus, or a weakened version of the virus, into the nasal pharynx, which enhanced immunity, at least for influenza.”

“Mucosal protection with a nasally administered vaccine would also have benefits in preventing infections before the virus would gain access to the lungs to cause more severe disease,” said Alcendor.

He emphasized that an effective antiviral or vaccine that can induce “nasal mucosal immune protection” would prevent infection, which is especially beneficial to high-risk populations.  

“However, long-term regular use of these reagents could damage the protective barrier of the nasal mucosa,” he warned.

COVID Nasal Vaccines Will Be a Challenge

Lahita pointed out one recent study in the journal Nature Medicine, finding that the immune response using the intranasal COVID-19 vaccine was very poor. 

“It failed to induce mucosal immunity,” he said.

According to Lahita, to give COVID vaccine via the nose, it’s necessary to engineer a very solid, secure molecule of RNA that would get in and be accepted by the dendritic cells of the nasal pharynx, and the macrophages. These cells are part of the innate immune system.

“So you need a carrier and you need something that’s really solid and can’t be degraded in the nasal pharynx, that’s going to be a challenge,” he said.

Reposted from: https://www.theepochtimes.com/health/carrageenan-nasal-spray-may-combat-covid_4922121.html

Related: 10 Best Nasal Sprays for COVID-19


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