ECU researchers study breakthrough COVID-19 treatment

Nanotechnology could provide improve lung capacity, reduce viral load for infected people
Published: Jun. 21, 2022 at 7:53 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - East Carolina University researchers have developed a new kind of treatment for COVID-19 that could eventually come in a form similar to an inhaler and go beyond just treating the virus.

WITN talked to two of the brilliant minds behind this nanotechnology to learn more about how it works.

Lok Pokhrel, Brody School of Medicine toxicology assistant professor, developed SNAT - or Smart Nano-enabled Antiviral Therapeutic.

“We were interested in seeing if our SNAT has efficacy against Sars-CoV-2 and whether or not it reduces the virus load in the animal model,” Pokhrel explained.

That’s where Department of Microbiology and Immunology Associate Professor Shaw Akula comes in. He tested the technology on hamsters infected with COVID-19. After 14 days, they saw what impact it had.

“There was a significant drop in the viral load, Sars-CoV-2. Second, there was tremendous improvement in lung health,” Akula explained.

The even better sign is that the technology would be easier for low-income people to get, unlike IV treatments or pills.

“There are limitations for people to access those pills. If you are too sick, you may not be able to ingest the pill,” Pokhrel said.

Not only would it be cheaper to make, but the treatment also has a shelf life of three years. Researchers say this patented research could open up access to treatment for so many people who are often forced to go without.

“Just knowing that it is effective against the virus is a big deal, and we are very excited for the future of this technology,” Pokhrel said.

Thr technology has been tested on hamsters, but it still needs to be tested on humans. If it goes well, it will then head to the FDA for approval.

However, that process could take years. Pokhrel and Akula hope this technology can be used for other viruses in the future.

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