Published: 02nd April 2020
This BITS Pilani prof has formulated a mouthwash that might help you avoid getting COVID-19. Here's how
Dr Suman Kapur, a senior professor at the institute has formulated the mouthwash and said it is based on FSSAI-approved nutraceuticals obtained from plant extracts
A professor from the Biochemistry Department of BITS Pilani, Hyderabad, has claimed that a formulation for mouthwash made from plant-based natural ingredients might prove useful in the containment of the Coronavirus that is mainly said to spread through respiratory droplets.
Dr Suman Kapur, a senior professor at the institute has said that the product will be made from the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI)-approved list of natural plant extracts. "I looked at the list of plants approved by the FSSAI to be used in various products, amounts that can be used per day per person. I chose a few of them from the list after doing a lot of research and thorough reading of papers that have been published to present the capabilities of the extracts from these plants. Several studies have shown that those extracts were able to block the entry of viruses, most commonly HIV, which belongs to a similar class as COVID-19," adds Dr Kapur.
The spike protein in the virus is embedded in an envelope of fat — a lipid layer. As soap and detergents disrupt this fat layer, people worldwide are being advised to frequently use sanitisers and soaps to wash hands. "As the spike protein is encased in a lipid layer,
what detergent or soap does is, it is able to disrupt the lipid layer and hence, deactivate the virus. There are a lot of plant products that act like soap, one such category is called Saponins which can disrupt the fat layer. Plants rich in Saponin and mannan, mannose, we have to get them together in the formation and prepare a mouthwash, a drink or cough syrup-like solution. These are all edible and used in India, quite common in Ayurveda and homoeopathy," she adds.
The professor suggests that if you gargle with this, the nutraceuticals make the virus ineffective. "There are reports from Korea that this virus spends the first few days in the buccal cavity (the oral cavity, bound by the cheeks of the face, the palate, and the flesh of the mandible, opening onto the mouth and the fauces, and containing the teeth, tongue, gums, and other structures) and so a swab test is done to determine the infection. If we clean up the oral cavity and the throat twice a day, don't let it replicate, so one who has the infection can lower the viral load and once who comes in to contact with droplets can also stop it," she explains.
She suggests that a 12-hour cycle for gargling can significantly reduce the transmission. We can also reduce the pace of the virus going in our throat using a cough syrup or mouthwash solutions leading to a slower progression. However, a clinical trial has to be done before anything can be determined. "I have spoken to an ayurvedic specialist. I am waiting for permission to do a clinical trial. I have shared my thoughts with the health ministry, they will have to take a call now," she concludes.
What they still have to determine is whether the extracts also impact the replication of the virus in labs, in experimental conditions. "For the past few months, we have seen a lot of studies comparing the sequence of the current virus with the earlier known strains of the same, and also with the first SARS virus. Based on the sequence we can see that the surface protein of this virus, usually called spike protein, is a glycoprotein which has sugars on their surface. A second screening has been done to see which plant products have molecules which will bind to these sugars. Mannose and mannan-glycan in SARS-CoV-2 are important to create contact with the receptors of the human cells that is called the ACE 2 receptor. If you have mannan-binding proteins they will bind to the surface of the virus. Once they do so their entry into the human cell through ACE 2 could be stopped, as the spike protein will not be able to establish contact with ACE 2. That is also the logic of antibodies because some doctors are using plasma from people who survived the infection to treat those who are sick, those antibodies will block the entry of the virus through the spike protein," she explains.