LAHORE: Pakistan is all set to start clinical trial of an antiviral nasal spray meant for the treatment of the patients testing positive for coronavirus, a rare medication that could be a breakthrough world over if found to be effective.

The drug, originally developed in US, is said to be a herbal product with no side effects and UK’s researchers have reached Pakistan to collaborate with the experts of the University of Health Sciences (UHS) Lahore, in this respect.

“Pakistan is the first country where the clinical trial of the drug for the treatment of coronavirus is being conducted”, Professor of genetics and UHS research director Dr Saqib Mahmood told Dawn here on Monday.

He says the Xlear nasal spray, a US product, is already available in the global market and considered safe and effective in reducing bacterial infections or tissue inflammation.

Herbal drug being tested on 80 local volunteers

“It will be used on those Covid-positive patients who are diagnosed with mild attack of the virus,” Prof Mahmood says, adding the UHS offered clinical trial of the drug on the Covid patients with a hope for a breakthrough.

He says the UHS has established a designated centre to conduct trial of the herbal drug, where the patients will undergo PCR tests on the first day of the registration. If found positive, as per the criteria set by the UHS-UK experts, he says, the patient will be registered for the drug’s test trial. The patient will also have to undergo PCR tests on the second, fourth, sixth and eight day of the trial process to evaluate the load of the virus, he adds.

“The UHS has also engaged the Lahore General Hospital, another teaching institute, to conduct the drug trial,” Prof Mahmood says, adding the UK researchers will lead the entire process as per the programme.

He says the natural sugar-based antiviral nasal spray developed in the US is advancing toward Phase II human clinical trials in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the UHS says the varsity has opened the clinical trial on Monday.

“The trial is coordinated and managed by Dr Isaac John, the Founder and CEO of Metanoic Health Limited, and Associate Director of Research and Development at Ashford and St Peter’s hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Chertsey, Surrey, UK and Dr. Meera Nadir, a clinical researcher from the same institute,” he says.“As many as 80 volunteers will be the part of this Phase 2B clinical trial,” the spokesperson says.

The research team from Pakistan will be led by UHS Vice Chancellor Prof Ahsan Waheed Rathore and Prof Saqib Mahmood, he says, adding that the Xylitol-based nasal spray is extracted from plants and cleanses the respiratory pathway.

“It moisturises and soothes the sinus and nasal passages while acting like soap for your nose,” he says.

The spray is in the markets in North America and the European Union countries for more than a decade. It is very safe anti-viral product but has never been tested to treat Covid-19.

He says the clinical trial funded and sponsored by an American Company XLEAR based in Utah will be complete by January 2023.

On Monday, Dr Isaac John briefed the participants on the protocols of the trial.

Prof Rathore says the varsity’s faculty will benefit from the experience of British experts in research and development during the trial.

Published in Dawn, November 29th, 2022

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