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Exterior sign of Baton Rouge General Hospital Mid-City location near the main entrance off Florida Blvd. in Baton Rouge, La on April 13th, 2020.

Doctors at Baton Rouge General Hospital are testing a nasal spray to see if it prevents people from contracting COVID-19.

If effective, the treatment could prove a powerful tool to combat the pandemic disease from home.

The hospital is one of two sites in the U.S. conducting second-phase clinical trials for GeneOne Life Science’s nasal spray, GLS-1200. The aim: to see how well the self-administered spray prevents respiratory illness, including COVID-19.

“This really stimulates your initial barrier of defense,” said Dr. Henry Barham, who’s heading the clinical trials at Baton Rouge General. “What we’re looking at is whether it prevents people from getting COVID in the first place, as opposed to the vaccine that prevents severe illness.”

Unlike COVID-19 vaccines that prevent severe illness by familiarizing the body’s antibodies with the novel coronavirus, the spray stimulates nasal passage receptors to prevent respiratory infections. 

As part of the Phase 2 clinical trial, Barham and his team are looking for participants between the ages of 18 and 65 who haven’t contracted COVID-19. The study also allows people who have already been vaccinated to join.

Two out of three participants will receive the GLS-1200 nasal spray, while others will get a placebo.

The aim of the trial’s second phase is to test how the treatment blocks the virus, as well as its tolerability and safety.

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Since beginning clinical trials in February, Barham said his team has not observed any side effects from the nasal sprays.

Because the treatment could be used for people who are vaccinated against COVID-19, it also has the potential to add even more protection against it and other respiratory illnesses, like the flu.

Though still relatively early in the clinical approval process, the nasal sprays may soon help slow COVID’s spread. 

Health experts have increasingly worried about emerging versions of the coronavirus that are more contagious and appear to be more severe than previous strains. In Louisiana, as many as 28 different COVID variants have been circulating in recent months, according to Dr. Lucio Miele, who chairs the Department of Genetics at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine. 

Though the three approved vaccines in the U.S. appear to be highly effective against known variants, health officials have raised alarms that future strains could weaken vaccines’ ability to protect people.

“If anything, it could be used in conjunction (with vaccines),” Barham said, adding that variants would not have any impact on how the spray is thought to work.

Similar trials for GLS-1200 are also underway in Philadelphia, and another is set to soon begin in Texas.

Trial participants are expected to administer the spray themselves three times a day for six weeks.

Anyone interested in the study can learn more by calling (225) 819-1181 or visiting sinusandnasalspecialists.com.


Email Youssef Rddad at yrddad@theadvocate.com, and follow him on Twitter @youssefrddad