Could Chewing Gum Help Stop the Spread of COVID-19?

This doesn't apply to all varieties of gum, mind you

A jar of multi-colored chewing gum on a desk
Gum could be a new tool to help contain the pandemic.
Marvin Meyer/Unsplash

While the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the number of tools available to fight it has increased. In the early days, we were limited to face masks, hand sanitizer and social distancing; nowadays, home testing is more prevalent, medical-grade masks are more widely available and a growing number of drugs exist that can make treatment easier. And now there’s a new tool showing promise at reducing the spread of the coronavirus: gum.

No, seriously, chewing gum. Admittedly, not every variety of gum applies here — if you try to walk onto a plane sans mask and say, “No, it’s cool, I’m chewing Doublemint,” you’re not going to be allowed on. However, per a report from Health Europa, scientists have found that a certain plant-grown protein can, when added to gum, trap the SARS-CoV-2 virus, reduce the viral load in saliva and thus lower COVID-19 transmission.

The University of Pennsylvania’s Henry Daniell has spent a significant amount of time researching angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) protein — initially as a treatment for hypertension. Daniell’s research also converged with that of a different team looking into plaque-reduction gum. Together, these two initiatives “led the team to investigate whether a gum laced with plant-grown ACE2 proteins can neutralise SARS-CoV-2 in the oral cavity.” Efforts have been encouraging so far in the lab, and Health Europa reports that they’re now looking to take the next step and gain approval for clinical trials.

The scientists believe that, if successful, the gum could be used to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in medical and dental settings. Walking and chewing gum is one thing — walking, chewing gum and halting the spread of a pandemic takes things to the next level.

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