Consortium proposes innovative therapy to eliminate SARS-CoV-2 virus in a few seconds

Eliminating the SARS-CoV-2 virus right at the main “gateway” in the body, that is, in the nasal cavities, using photodynamic therapy, is the main objective of the “FOTOVID” project, which has just obtained 450 thousand euros of financing from the Centro 2020 Operational Program.

The research brings together, in consortium, the University of Coimbra (UC), through multidisciplinary teams from the faculties of Science and Technology (FCTUC) and Medicine (FMUC), the Hospital and University Center of Coimbra (CHUC) and LaserLeap companies (Coimbra), who coordinates the project, and Ondine Biomedical (Canada), a world leader in antibacterial photo-infection.

Consortium officials stress that the “FOTOVID” project is based on “recent knowledge that SARS-CoV-2 is associated with a protein preferably present in the nasal cavities, where a reservoir of viruses is responsible for the transmission of the disease and generalization of infection”.

Thus, they state, “the inactivation of viruses present in the nasal cavities in the early stages of Covid-19 disease may speed up treatment, allow only the most benign forms of the disease to manifest, and contribute to preventing the spread of the pandemic”.

Starting from a nasal disinfection technology created by the Canadian company partner in the project, which is already used worldwide to eliminate multi-resistant bacteria, the consortium will develop an innovative therapy capable of killing viruses, in particular the coronavirus responsible for Covid-19. This way, the investigation will be much faster and, in case of success, the placing on the market will be easier and at a reduced cost.

“This is the innovation of the project, as the technology was never applied in virus inactivation”, underlines Luís Arnaut, one of the scientists involved in the investigation, clarifying that “we are proposing a procedure with a high degree of sophistication, inactivation of multi-resistant bacteria with photodynamic therapy. This high degree of sophistication predicts the greatest success of therapy to combat Covid-19″.

As with other current therapeutic approaches, in which drugs directed at other diseases are also applied in the treatment of Covid-19, in practice, what this consortium proposes “is a repositioning of molecules, that is, taking a therapy that is be used to destroy multi-resistant bacteria and reposition it to kill viruses,” adds the FCTUC professor.

The first tests will start in October, at the Faculty of Medicine of UC, with virus samples from patients infected by Covid-19 provided by the Infectious Diseases Service of CHUC.

Subsequently, when the team demonstrates the effectiveness of the photodynamic inactivation of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, clinical trials with voluntary patients follow, which should happen next year. The tests will be coordinated by professors Manuel Santos Rosa and José Saraiva da Cunha.

Photodynamic therapy is a non-invasive therapy where a molecule is used that inactivates viruses and bacteria only when it absorbs light and only in the place where the light strikes, that is, it acts selectively. It is a quick treatment, which can last only a few seconds, and is inexpensive.

Knowing that the nose is the main route of entry of the SARS-CoV-2 virus into the body, without a doubt, photodynamic therapy can be a strong ally in fighting the pandemic.

Those responsible for the project argue that the technology they propose is intended to be the first therapeutic option, eliminating the virus at a very early stage and thus preventing the disease from progressing to more severe stages.

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