Durham-based KNOW Bio infected host cells with the scientific SARS-CoV-2 virus, the virus that causes COVID-19. They then exposed the cells to a solution containing nitric oxide. Within 24 hours, 99.9 percent of the viruses were dead. More importantly, the remaining viruses were unable to replicate and the host cells were unpublished.
“You can kill the virus, but damage its ability to replicate?” It is truly an amazing discovery, ”says CEO Neil Hunter.
Nitric oxide is a compound that the human body produces naturally. Scientists had proposed using it to combat the SARS-CoV-2 virus, but Hunter says no one tried to do so.
When additional levels were introduced through therapeutic doses in KNOW bio experiments, Chief Scientific Officer Mark Schonfisk says the virus was much less capable of binding with host cells. Even if the virus was through, its repeatability was severely impaired. And even if the virus got into the host cell, it was unable to break the cell wall and move to other cells.
“There is viral replication that leads to infection, and therefore being able to prevent viral replication or inhibit viral replication is really important to control COVID infection,” he says.
The process still needs to be peer reviewed and any proposed treatment will have to be approved by the FDA. Hunter says it would normally take a few years but his company could demand an Emergency Use Authority. This will speed up the process.
Meanwhile, Hunter has big plans for nitric oxide treatment. He adds that it may prove useful against a host of upper respiratory infections.
“So we don’t just kill SARS-CoV-2. When we’re out we’re going to kill SARS-CoV-3, most likely, because in 2005 nitric oxide released SARS-CoV-1 (sic). ) Was killed. So we are going to kill influenza, we are going to kill Pseudomonas, all those nasty things in your lungs, we can eliminate, “he says.
Hunter says that there is always a risk that the virus may develop chemical immunity to nitric oxide, but he does not think it is possible that the way nitric oxide interacts with cells.