Masks, Nasal Sprays: COVID-19 Researcher Discusses Strategies that May Offer Protection

Widespread use of masks to protect the nasal passages, as well as any therapeutic strategies that reduce virus in the nose, such as nasal irrigation or antiviral nasal sprays, could be beneficial, UNC expert says.

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Researchers at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and the UNC School of Medicine conducted a study of novel coronavirus infection in human airways, published in the journal Cell. UNC reports that the findings add to evidence that wearing a mask is an important step toward limiting transmission of COVID-19, and the researchers also point to the potential benefits of therapeutic strategies such as nasal irrigation or antiviral nasal sprays.

In the study, the scientists map how coronavirus travels through cells of nasal cavity and into the respiratory tract. A report by UNC Health explains that, initially, SARS-CoV-2 tends to become firmly established in the nasal cavity, where it replicates specific cell types. Then, in some cases, it is aspirated into the lungs. That’s where it may cause more serious, potentially fatal, disease.

“If the nose is the dominant initial site from which lung infections are seeded, then the widespread use of masks to protect the nasal passages, as well as any therapeutic strategies that reduce virus in the nose, such as nasal irrigation or antiviral nasal sprays, could be beneficial,” said study co-senior author Richard Boucher, M.D., the James C. Moeser Eminent Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Director of the Marsico Lung Institute at the UNC School of Medicine.

For more on the findings, read Researchers map how coronavirus infection travels through cells of nasal cavity and respiratory tract.

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