Malcolm King, Anwarul Hasan and Carlos Lange have developed a drug that, when inhaled, would reduce or eliminate the amount of droplets coming out of the mouth when a disease-infected person coughs.
(Edmonton) What if there was a drug that could completely eliminate airborne disease transmission that occurs when someone coughs? Researchers at the University of Alberta believe they have found a way to achieve this.
The idea behind this work came from Malcolm King and his research associate Gustavo Zayas, both who work in the Division of Pulmonary Medicine at the U of A’s Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry.
“We need a treatment to reduce the spread of airborne diseases such as influenza, particularly when a new strain appears as was the case with last year's H1N1 influenza,” said King about their decision to analyze airborne infectious transmissions.
King and Zayas developed a drug that, when inhaled, would reduce or eliminate the amount of droplets, called bioaerosol, coming out of the mouth when a disease-infected person coughs. These airborne particles can stay in the air for minutes and sometimes even hours.
“Our treatment has the potential to greatly reduce the amount of fine virus-laden droplets that result from coughing and therefore reduce the risk for people who come in contact with carriers of the flu,” added King.
In order to help perfect this drug King and Zayas enlisted in the expertise of PhD graduate Anwarul Hasan and associate professor Carlos Lange, both from the Faculty of Engineering’s mechanical engineering department.
“My engineering skills and expertise in the field of fluid flow was essential for this project, which was missing at that point and eventually played a key role in its success,” said Hasan.
It was Hasan and Lange’s role to find out how the size and amount of the cough-emitted droplets are affected by the new drug.
After five years of research using a simulated cough machine, Hasan discovered how the new drug can manipulate the properties of the lung fluid to almost completely suppress the emission of droplets, a research first. This discovery provides a clear target for the new drug in its early phases of development.
This is a major step forward,” said Hasan. “I’m absolutely thrilled to realize that the research I’ve done here at the University of Alberta has resulted in an outcome that will have a global impact.”
King and Zayas are moving forward to develop the drug in the form of a spray and plan to perform clinical trials in hopes that one day this drug could not only help stop the spread of a pandemic outbreak, but also protect nurses, doctors and other front-line health care professionals.
“We should be able to carry out our initial human study within this coming year. If this is successful two more phases of study will be required, so we estimate it will be three to five years before we can bring this drug to market,” said King.
This research was recently published in the journal
Non-Newtonian Fluid Mechanics.