Doctors see promise in aerosol as possible treatment against COVID-19

As researchers work hard to develop a vaccine to prevent COVID-19 infections, doctors have found another way to protect us from the coronavirus.

They call it AeroNabs. It would come in an aerosol and could be used as a nasal spray or inhaler.

Doctors say it could protect essential workers from getting sick from the virus.

Francisco Bernal is a truck driver and pastor. He usually shares a short sermon every day on the road. But in late July, the Hall County husband and father of six tested positive for COVID-19.

“At the beginning was just high fever and a lot of coughing,” said Bernal.

He had trouble breathing and spent a week at Northeast Georgia Medical Center. He spent days in the ICU getting oxygen.

Even after recovering, Bernal still feels lingering side effects.

“I get tired, and when I get tired, I cough a lot,” said Bernal.

His wife and six children also contracted the virus.

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He’s concerned about reports that people who have had COVID-19 can get it again.

“I am because I mean, I don’t want to be out of a job and leaving my church just hanging there for two, three months. And I’m concerned,” Bernal said.

Researchers at the University of California San Francisco developed AeroNabs, a preventive treatment that could protect people like Bernal from COVID-19.

Dr. Aashish Manglik said the idea for AeroNabs came from camels, llamas and alpacas.

“The premise behind AeroNabs is it’s an antibody molecule that originally comes from animals like llamas or alpacas. We like to call them nanobodies, small little proteins that are incredibly stable,” Manglik said.

The University of California San Francisco produced a video to explain how AeroNabs would prevent COVID-19.

“When AeroNabs bind to the spiked protein, the virus can’t attach to ACE-2, and it loses its ability to infect cells,” the narrator explained.

“This would basically, quite literally, inactivate the virus such that even if it found its way into your nasal passages or your lungs, then it would be ineffective,” Manglik said.

He said people could take AeroNabs at home by inhaling them using a nasal spray like Flonase or a nebulizer.

Dr. Manglik said the treatment could be used by people who test positive for the virus but haven’t developed symptoms yet, those living with them and essential workers.

“People like health care workers or nursing home residents or nursing home staff, meatpacking plant workers, all of these people that have a higher chance of getting the virus or perhaps becoming quite sick from the virus,” Manglik said.

He sees AeroNabs being used in addition to current forms of protection.

“But I think it’d be an adjunct always to the various policies and social practices that we’re taking like social distancing and masking,” Manglik said.

The next step is to conduct clinical trials. If all goes well, AeroNabs could be available to consumers in a few months. Bernal thinks it’s a good idea.

“As far as maybe preventing us from having to go through all that we went in preventing us to have COVID in the future,” Bernal said.

Manglik said that researchers are looking for a company to partner with for the clinical trials and mass-produce AeroNabs. He said he thinks AeroNabs would be inexpensive because these molecules are stable and relatively simple.