According to the study published in the journal Molecular Therapy, the researchers exposed saliva samples from coronavirus patients to the ACE2 gum and discovered that levels of viral RNA dropped so dramatically that they were almost undetectable.
“SARS-CoV-2 replicates in the salivary glands, and we know that when someone d sneezes, coughs, or speaks some of that virus can be expelled and reach others,” researcher Henry Daniell from the University of Pennsylvania said.
“This gum offers an opportunity to neutralise the virus in the saliva, giving us a simple way to possibly cut down on a source of disease transmission,” Daniell added.
To put the chewing gum to the test, the researchers grew angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) in plants, paired it with another compound that allows the protein to cross mucosal barriers and facilitates binding, and then incorporated the plant material into cinnamon-flavored gum tablets.
They demonstrated that by incubating samples obtained from nasopharyngeal swabs from Covid-positive patients with the gum, the ACE2 present could neutralise SARS-CoV-2 viruses.
Following those initial studies, others were conducted in which viruses that were less pathogenic than SARS-CoV-2 were modified to express the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.
The gum largely prevented viruses or viral particles from entering cells, either by blocking the ACE2 receptor on the cells or by binding directly to the spike protein, according to the researchers.
The research team is currently working to obtain permission to conduct a clinical trial to see if the approach is safe and effective when tested on SARS-CoV-2 infected people.