Experimental Chewing Gum Could Reduce Coronavirus Spread

Carolyn Crist

November 24, 2021

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

A new experimental chewing gum could reduce the amount of coronavirus particles in saliva and help slow transmission, according to a recent study published in the journal Molecular Therapy.

The gum contains a protein that "traps" virus particles and could limit the spread of virus-laden droplets when infected people are talking, breathing, or coughing.

"Chewing gum with virus-trapping proteins offers a general affordable strategy to protect patients from most oral virus re-infections through debulking or minimizing transmission to others," the study authors wrote.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania tested the chewing gum in test tubes using saliva and swab samples from hospitalized patients with confirmed COVID-19.

The gum contains copies of the ACE2 protein on cell surfaces, which is the "spike" protein that the coronavirus uses to break into cells and infect them.

During the test-tube experiments, the virus particles attached to the ACE2 receptors in the gum. The viral load in the samples fell by more than 95%, the researchers said.

The gum feels and tastes like conventional gum and can be stored for years at normal temperatures, according to Reuters. Chewing the gum doesn't damage the ACE2 protein molecules, the researchers said.

Using gum to reduce viral load in saliva would add to global vaccination efforts and could be useful in countries where vaccines aren't widely available or affordable, the researchers said. The gum is made from clinical-grade plant material and was developed to meet FDA requirements, they said.

The gum isn't yet available for use, but researchers in the U.S. will continue to test it.

Sources

Molecular Therapy: "Debulking SARS-CoV-2 in saliva using angiotensin converting enzyme 2 in chewing gum to decrease oral virus transmission and infection."

Reuters: "Experimental chewing gum may reduce virus spread."

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