Melbourne researchers are trialling a new nasal spray treatment that they think could prevent COVID-19 transmission.

They’ve turned one of the world’s most common drugs, a blood-thinner called heparin, into a spray in what its developer said started as a “crazy idea” at the very beginning of the pandemic.

Northern Health medical divisional director Don Campbell has spent 20 months developing and researching the spray with Melbourne, Monash and Oxford Universities. So far studies have found that it can block transmission of the virus, including Omicron, into uninfected people.

The spray coats the inside of your nostrils and binds to one of the types of molecules that COVID typically gets into. This blocks the proteins from any variant from infecting your cells.

The way it works is with just a couple of sprays in each nostril, three times a day.

As a blood-thinner (or anticoagulant), Heparin is the second most-used drug in the world. It’s easy to come by, stable at room temperature and can be transported without refrigeration, making the spray cheap and accessible.

The Victorian government is throwing $4.2 million behind clinical trials and, if successful, they’re hoping the spray can be manufactured locally. 

Because heparin is already an approved drug, it could be on the market pretty quickly.

Over the next six months the spray will be trialled in 340 Victorian homes where residents are considered household contacts of a positive case. They’ll be given the treatment within hours of the first family member’s positive result.

Developers are hoping the spray could supplement the protection offered by vaccines, especially for those in high-risk settings.

Image: Getty Images / Michael Buckner