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A 'biological mask' being researched at Laurier to protect healthcare workers

It uses our immune system rather than a physical mask
A man wears a mask to prevent the spread of illness. Photo courtesy UBC

Research is underway at Wilfrid Laurier University on a new way to protect healthcare workers during COVID-19.

While all laboratory-based research was suspended in March, an exception was made for work pertaining to the pandemic. 

Stephanie DeWitte-Orr's current research is aiming to use our own immune systems to protect against airborne viruses like the novel coronavirus.

“The immune system is our first line of defence against any sort of illness,” said DeWitte-Orr in a release.

Her team is working with two drugs that have been shown to stimulate the immune system, and make our airways unbreachable by a virus.

“During an outbreak like COVID-19, there is an immediate need for preventative treatments that are broad-spectrum and quickly deployable to fill the long gap until a vaccine is developed,” said DeWitte-Orr.

“An off-the-shelf, inhalable antiviral drug would be a valuable tool globally to not only prevent the spread of COVID-19, but future respiratory outbreaks.”

DeWitte-Orr's team is trying to practice in as realistic a scenario as possible, growing their own strain of coronavirus in their laboratory to use for testing.

The drug has not yet been approved for human use, though DeWitte-Orr found that one of the drugs was effective against infection viruses like the flu and Ebola.

She hopes that her 20 years of previous study will help to expedite results, though there are many trial stages before the drug can reach the healthcare system.

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