A Spray A Day Keeps COVID-19 Away

Taking a povidone-iodine throat spray or oral hydroxychloroquine may reduce COVID-19 spread especially in high transmission settings, say scientists from Singapore.

AsianScientist (Apr. 29, 2021) – As vaccinations roll out worldwide, scientists from Singapore have found that a simple spray of povidone-iodine or oral hydroxychloroquine may keep the pandemic at bay in the meantime. Their findings were published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Though COVID-19 vaccines were developed and deployed in record time, the coronavirus will continue to be a global threat until mass vaccination is successfully implemented worldwide. Until that happens, public health interventions like masking and social distancing remain the only proven measures of reducing viral transmission.

With new variants and clusters emerging across the world, scientists are still working as hard as ever to find innovative ways to contain the virus. In Singapore, a team of clinician-scientists turned to tried-and-tested remedies for other diseases, including the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, antiseptic povidone-iodine, parasitic worm drug ivermectin and even good old Vitamin C.

Conducting a randomized clinical trial involving 3,037 healthy migrant workers under quarantine, the team from National University Hospital (NUH); National University of Singapore (NUS); National University Cancer Institute, Singapore; and National University Heart Centre, Singapore tested various combinations of the aforementioned drugs.

In the trial, each dormitory floor was randomly assigned to receive a 42-day preventive regimen of either oral hydroxychloroquine, oral ivermectin, povidone-iodine throat spray, a combination of oral zinc/vitamin C or just vitamin C. As the latter was widely taken as a supplement even before the pandemic, it was used as a point of comparison for the other medicines.

Though a little over half of the workers (55.4 percent) ended up testing positive for COVID-19, the frequency of infection was lower among those who had taken the hydroxychloroquine (49 percent) and povidone-iodine throat spray (46 percent). For comparison, 70 percent of those who had taken only Vitamin C ended up getting infected.

“This is the first study to demonstrate the benefits of preventive therapy with either oral hydroxychloroquine or povidone-iodine throat spray in reducing SARS-CoV-2 infection among quarantined individuals living in a closed and high exposure setting,” noted lead author Associate Professor Raymond Seet from NUH and NUS Medicine.

As hydroxychloroquine and povidone-iodine are easily available and have established safety profiles, the two drugs represent a viable strategy for preventing COVID-19 transmission for individuals living in a closed, high-exposure settings. According to the authors, further research could focus on the drugs’ effects on vulnerable populations like the elderly or those with immunocompromised systems and comorbidities over longer periods of time.

“These existing drugs could be used to complement existing safety measures in settings where transmission is high while awaiting roll out of a vaccine,” concluded Seet.

The article can be found at: Seet et al. (2021) Positive impact of oral hydroxychloroquine and povidone-iodine throat spray for COVID-19 prophylaxis: an open-label randomized trial.


Source: National University Health System. Photo: kandl stock/Shutterstock.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

Asian Scientist Magazine is an award-winning science and technology magazine that highlights R&D news stories from Asia to a global audience. The magazine is published by Singapore-headquartered Wildtype Media Group.

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