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WKSU, our public radio partners in Ohio and across the region and NPR are all continuing to work on stories on the latest developments with the coronavirus and COVID-19 so that we can keep you informed.

UH Clinical Trial Tests Oral Spray That Might Help Prevent Coronavirus


University Hospitals is leading a new clinical trial to test whether an oral spray produced by Cleveland-based company ARMS Pharmaceutical can help prevent the coronavirus.

The trial’s principal investigator Dr. Robert Salata said the focus of the trial is on health care workers because they are becoming infected at a higher rate.

“We really feel strongly that this is a very important thing that we’re trying to do in terms of prevention,” he said.

Salata said the oral spray has been previously tested on other respiratory illnesses and is effective on those viruses, like SARS and MERS.

“We’re confident, based upon the other studies that we’ve done clinically but also in the laboratory, to suggest that this will have an effect,” he said.

Health care workers who are part of the trial will continue to wear personal protective equipment or PPE, but due to the shortage of that equipment, Salata said more is needed to protect them.

The virus is mainly spread through respiratory droplets, but anyone using the product would still need to take other precautionary measures, like washing hands and not touching eyes, nose, or mouth, because that’s another way the virus is spread.

The trial is expected to start in two weeks at multiple Northeast Ohio hospitals, and they will analyze the results two months later.

The workers who are recruited into the study will receive an antibody test to see if they’ve already had coronavirus, and if so they will be excluded from the trial. Salata said these tests are still emerging and not widely available, but if the antibody tests are positive, it is an indication that the person has already had the virus.

The study will test two groups. One group will be given a placebo and the other group will be given the product. All participants in the study will eventually receive the product as part of the study design.

If the results show positive signs of preventing the virus, the trial will move on after two months and begin studying its effectiveness in people at risk for severe symptoms.  

The spray is marketed under the brand name Halo by Cleveland-based ARMS Pharmaceutical, and it was available on Amazon before the study.

Salata says the manufacturer pulled the product to make sure there are enough supplies for the study.