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New research: A plant-based chewing gum that ‘traps’ coronavirus

When a person infected with SARS-CoV-2 sneezes, coughs or speaks, some of the virus can be expelled and reach others. The chewing gum targets the virus in the saliva, and does so by trapping it with the ACE2 protein.

Here are SARS-CoV-2 swab samples before (left) and after (right) treatment. The chewing gum infused with the ACE2 protein triggered a reduction in the amount of virus in samples taken from Covid-19 patients. (The researchers via University of Pennsylvania)

Researchers have developed a chewing gum that they say can potentially reduce transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. The chewing gum is laced with a plant-grown protein, which serves as a “trap” for the virus. This reduces viral load in saliva and potentially tamps down transmission, say the researchers, who have published their study in the journal Molecular Therapy.

When a person infected with SARS-CoV-2 sneezes, coughs or speaks, some of the virus can be expelled and reach others. The chewing gum targets the virus in the saliva, and does so by trapping it with the ACE2 protein.

The ACE2 protein in humans is where the coronavirus latches on to, in order to enter the cell. Before the pandemic, Henry Daniell of the University of Pennsylvania had been studying ACE2 for treating hypertension. His lab had grown ACE2 using a patented plant-based production system.

Daniell and colleague Hyun (Michel) Koo had also been working on developing a chewing gum infused with plant-grown proteins to disrupt dental plaque. Daniell wondered if such a gum, infused with plant-grown ACE2, could neutralise SARS-CoV-2 in the oral cavity, the University of Pennsylvania said in a release.

Daniell, Koo and virologist Ronald Collman grew ACE2 in plants, paired with another compound, and incorporated the resulting plant material into cinnamon-flavoured gum tablets. Incubating samples obtained from nasopharyngeal swabs from Covid-positive patients with the gum, they found that the ACE2 could neutralise SARS-CoV-2.

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