In an idea that isn’t as insane as it sounds, Stanford University researchers want us to snort chicken matter to protect us from COVID-19. Worth a shot. Or a line.
Perhaps proving that novel viruses require novel solutions, Stanford University is attempting to outfox COVID-19 with chicken antibodies. The kicker is that the researchers are suggesting we chop the antibodies into a line and take it directly up the nose, ostensibly snorting almost-chicken matter. The project is wonderfully low-tech, with researchers infecting chickens with a certain COVID-specific protein, then harvesting the antibodies produced in response (from egg yolks), before planting the goop into the nasal passages of test subjects.
Now, the trial will ascertain how long the antibodies live in the nose, thereby gauging whether a beakful of chicken will protect us from the coronavirus. “The concept, in principle, sort of makes sense,” said Michael Diamond, an infectious disease clinician at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. However, a chicken-based nasal spray is hardly paltry in the world of science, as Columbia University has decided to fight COVID-19 with ferrets. In a paper (which isn’t official), Columbia researchers “found that all the ferrets that received the spray did not catch the disease from their virus-shedding cagemates. They also didn’t notice any negative side-effects to the spray among the ferrets, which bodes well for human trials.”
Daria Mochly-Rosen, the Stanford protein chemist spearheading the project, is confident that her antibodies will pass muster, and has roped in 48 Australian humans in order to prove it. Pushing the research even closer to parody, Mochly-Rosen said that “the proof is in the pudding”. I’m not sure if that’s a metaphor, or if the antibodies are attached to the aforementioned pudding and thrust up the noses of the unfortunate volunteers. Interestingly, those behind the test believe that eggy product could cost the consumer as little as a dollar a dose, should all go well.
The researchers, however, are clear that it isn’t a vaccine, with the yolks affording us short-term protection against infection. As Mochly-Rosen put it, “the nasal drops provide protection by capturing and neutralising the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 before it enters the body…the nasal drops will not replace vaccines and measures such as wearing face masks, social distancing, and washing hands…but they could play a vital role in keeping people safe while the medical community and governments around the world pursue all options for ending the pandemic.”