University of São Paulo: Sodium chloride particulate inhaler research may inhibit coronavirus replication

Tests carried out in the laboratory showed that a salt particle inhaler (sodium chloride) was able to inhibit the replication of the coronavirus in monkey and human cells. The research is in the initial phase and further studies are still needed. Depending on the results, according to the researchers, in the long term it could be a cost-effective measure to deal with covid-19 and other respiratory diseases. The data are in the article Inhibition of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 Replication by Hypertonic Saline Solution in Lung and Kidney Epithelial Cells , published last September in the scientific journal ACS Pharmacology & Translational Science . In an interview with Jornal da USP no Ar 1st Edition, Professor Cristiane Guzzo, from the Institute of Biomedical Sciences (ICB) at USP, explained that the objective of the study was to understand how salt could have an effect on the ability of the virus to reproduce.

At first, monkey cells were used. With “only 1.2% NaCl it already had 100% inhibition,” he said. When the scientists used human lung epithelial cells for the same concentration of NaCl, the effectiveness was 90%. “There is a very promising result of the effect of NaCl on the replication of sars-cov-2”, highlighted the professor.

Cristiane points out that, in the experiment, high purity NaCl and water were used, without contamination from microorganisms or other compounds. “We buy it, produce it in high purity and keep it sterile so that we can carry out our experiments and not have contamination with other microorganisms.”

The research is in the first phase. To be used in a possible treatment, it needs more studies and goes through other phases, which would include the production of an inhaler, such as those used for colds. “We are continuing this, with different ways of getting to the salt in the lung and trying to validate the effectiveness for a future treatment for covid”, highlighted the professor.

Another point raised by Cristiane is that the hypersonic solution was never used to prevent the virus from replicating. In general, the treatments that use it are to remove secretions from the airways and help in the respiratory part. “If it shows effectiveness, it will also have other beneficial effects for the body, like improving the immune system on the spot, helping to get that secretion out and helping the airways,” she said.

Mechanism of action

When cells are under the effect of salt, they are unbalanced and need to reduce the amount of NaCl, putting it out, which requires a large expenditure of ATP (energy). If the virus has already infected that cell, it will need this energy to carry out its replication. However, as everything has already been spent on balancing the salt concentration, there is no energy left for creating viral material. “This mechanism had never been shown and, by understanding it, we were able to predict whether salt really works with sar-cov-2,” said the professor.

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