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What we know about UCSF's nasal spray and Russia's vaccine

“If it is indeed effective at preventing coronavirus infection, it could be a really useful, what we call Plan B."

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — There were two major headlines Wednesday in the fight against the corornavirus: a new nasal spray being developed by researchers at the University of California San Francisco which uses synthetic antibodies to neutralize the virus and a story out of Russia claiming the country has developed a vaccine.

ABC10 reached out to it’s resident medical expert, Dr. Payal Kohli to answer questions about both stories.

Q: What do we know about a nasal spray developed by UCSF?

A: “The nasal spray has a concentrated formulation of what’s called nanobodies, which are essentially like antibodies on a smaller scale. They’re manufactured by genetically engineering yeast or bacteria to make them nanobody factories.”

Q: What does a nanobody do?

A: “What they do is two functions. One is that they bind to the spike protein, that’s the part the virus uses to get inside human cells and they basically kind of put a cover on it, so it’s not able to react with the receptor, the ACE-2 receptor to get into the cells. And the second is they actually lock that spike protein into an inactive form. So they make it inactive not just by covering it but by changing the structure of that protein so it no longer works.”

Q: How would it help in the fight against the coronavirus?

A: “If it is indeed effective at preventing coronavirus infection, it could be a really useful, what we call Plan B. So if you need a back-up plan, because you got exposed to the virus, this would be a really helpful way to try to prevent infection for those that are exposed.”

Q: What do we know about a new Russian coronavirus vaccine?

A: “Actually we know very little about what’s going on with the Russian coronavirus vaccine. It almost feels like we had nothing and now something has dropped out of the sky. So personally I have not seen any phase one or phase two data on this vaccine and I’ve heard limited reports from the former commissioner of the FDA that its been studied in a hundred or fewer patients.”

Q: So what should we think about this new Russian vaccine?

A: “At this point, I think this vaccine should be approached with a lot of skepticism and caution because it has not really been proven to be efficacious or safe which are the two big milestones every vaccine has to clear before we can start using it in the general population.”


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