According to a recent study published in the journal Molecular Therapy, experimental chewing gum was able to reduce the release of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid 19. Now, how excited should we be about this finding, and does it work against omicrone, the latest worrying form of the coronavirus?
Evidence shows that people infected with SARS-CoV-2 have large amounts of the virus in their saliva; Therefore, researchers in the United States wanted to see if a specific chewing gum could reduce the amount of virus in the mouth and reduce its spread.
Chewing gum is not a new idea to improve oral health. Studies have shown that chewing gum containing certain substances such as calcium and bicarbonate can improve oral health, reduce the incidence of oral diseases and reduce the number of harmful bacteria; But targeting a particular virus using chewing gum is a new approach.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus enters human cells by binding to ACE2 proteins on the surface of some cells in the body. Researchers have produced chewing gum that contains high levels of ACE2 protein and has been produced in plants. The researchers’ idea was that the ACE2 proteins in chewing gum could trap virus particles in the mouth and reduce the chance they could infect cells and transmit them to others.
To test the effectiveness of chewing gum, the researchers took saliva samples from patients with Covid’s 19 and mixed them with powdered chewing gum. The number of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles in chewing gum saliva was significantly lower than in placebo-treated saliva (same as ACE2-free chewing gum).
Also, in the gum laboratory, the harmless virus, which had the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein on its surface, could infect the cells. Only 5 mg of chewing gum was associated with a reduction in the rate of virus entry into cells; While 50 mg of chewing gum reduced cell entry by 95%. This suggests that ACE2-containing chewing gum greatly reduces the ability of the spike virus protein to infect cells.
Reasons for caution
Although the results seem promising, for various reasons we can not yet consider this chewing gum as a groundbreaking achievement in the fight against globalization. Some of these reasons are:
- This research is preliminary; That is, the experiments were performed in a laboratory under controlled conditions, rather than in the body. The conditions in a laboratory test are different from the conditions in a person’s mouth. While the researchers used a chewing simulator to show that chewing motion does not affect the integrity of the ACE2 protein in chewing gum, there are other questions that we do not yet know the answer to. For example, do a person’s oral environment, such as temperature and bacteria in the mouth, affect the performance of the gum studied? How effective is a piece of chewing gum? If the research goes this far, it will be interesting to see if chewing gum will have the same effects in humans as in the laboratory.
People with Covid 19 have high levels of SARS-CoV-2 in their saliva
- Although chewing gum significantly reduced the infection of the virus containing the SARS-CoV-2 spike, the researchers did not use the complete SARS-CoV-2 virus in their experiments. While their method of using a harmless virus containing the SARS-CoV-2 spike is a scientifically proven method for assessing virus entry into cells, it is interesting to see how chewing gum will affect the entire SARS-CoV-2 virus. According to the principles of virology, we can be optimistic about whether chewing gum will be effective against different types of cavities such as omicron. Regardless of the species or its mutations, the Covid virus enters human cells by binding to ACE2 proteins, which is key to how gum works. However, we do not know the exact answer to this question until the product is tested in real-world trials.
- It is important to know what the purpose of designing this gum was. According to the researchers, its main use is likely to be to reduce the spread of the virus by people with Covid 19, especially in clinical settings. It is not clear how much of this gum can act as a preventative tool and prevent healthy people from becoming infected; Especially when SARS-CoV-2 can be transmitted through various pathways such as the eyes and nose. However, this chewing gum can have exciting prospects in the clinical setting and, for example, reduce the spread of the virus in dental surgeries or hospital wards for cavities.
Finally, it should be noted that chewing gum can be another tool to prevent the spread of Covid 19 when used in combination with current methods such as masking, ventilation and vaccination. However, more research is needed before such chewing gum can reach us.