A SCIENCE professor from Oldham who works in America has made a discovery that could potentially create a nasal spray and early treatment throat spray for coronavirus.

Prof David Needham, who went to the former Counthill Grammar school in Moorside, has shown a slight increase in solution pH may be all it takes to turn a metabolic inhibiting drug into a promising prophylactic/preventative nasal spray and early treatment throat spray for Covid-19.

Since 1958, metabolic inhibiting drug niclosamide has been used to treat gut parasite infections in humans, pets and farm animals.

Delivered as oral tablets, the drug kills the parasites on contact by inhibiting their crucial metabolic pathway and shutting down their energy supply.

But in recent years, researchers have been testing niclosamide’s potential to treat a much wider range of diseases, such as many types of cancer, metabolic diseases, rheumatoid arthritis and systemic sclerosis.

Prof Needham, the sole author of the new study at Duke University in North Carolina, said: “Niclosamide turns down the dimmer switch on a cell’s energy and essentially puts the virus in lockdown."

When used in conjunction with vaccines, masking and other recommended mitigation measures for Covid-19 prevention, the new niclosamide solution holds potential as an supplementary strategy, he said.

Prof Needham added: “This development could enable safe and effective nose and throat sprays that provide additional protection behind the mask.”

Like many researchers worldwide, the professor, switched gears to Covid studies when the pandemic struck.

After a Korean paper screening existing drugs for efficacy against coronavirus identified niclosamide as a potential target, he spent the next year researching a range of formulations.

While promising, Prof Needham notes, results still need to be tested in cells actually infected with Covid-19, as well as in such cells protected by a mucus layer, which requires finding partner labs and agencies with the required resources and live virus.

He said: “While vaccines are clearly effective, a nasal preventative would added protection.

"And even if an infection has already taken hold, this formulation could be used as an early treatment throat spray that could stop the viral load heading toward the lungs that causes the disease’s most devastating effects.”

Prof Needham has filed a patent application and is actively seeking industry, government and infectious disease institute partners to help pursue clinical trials.

He decided to work in cancer research after his mother Audrey had cancer in 1972 and recovered with a radical mastectomy.