Recent research has found that a plant-based chewing gum could actually reduce transmission rates of Covid-19. The gum can act as a “trap” for Covid-19, which has many positive effects. Therefore, this exciting finding raises the possibility of an extra tool becoming available in the battle against the ongoing pandemic.
Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have produced a plant-grown protein-based gum that can act as a “trap” for SARS-CoV-2 – which is the virus that causes Covid-19.
The gum works to reduce viral load in our saliva, which the study suggests has the effect of lowering transmission rates. This gum has the potential to be very effective against the spread of Covid-19.
As Covid-19 cases continue to rise, an additional and low-cost treatment would be welcomed by all. It could be a useful tool against the pandemic.
The Current Covid-19 Statistics
At the time of writing, the world has had almost 299 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 . Tragically, there have been over 5 million deaths worldwide .
SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes Covid-19. Vaccines have proven to be useful against Covid-19, but transmission rates remain high.
Another issue is that in some countries, vaccine hesitancy is rampant. For instance, while 62% of the population of the United States have had two vaccine doses, a sizeable 26% are unvaccinated . Across Europe, 34% of people are completely unvaccinated . In Canada, an impressive 78% of people are fully vaccinated .
So whilst vaccines have helped, the number of cases continue to rise. Moreover, even those who have been vaccinated can still catch Covid-19. Therefore, any potential method of lowering transmission rates would be very helpful.
The lucky discovery
The research compiled recently actually had its starting point in a previous, unconnected study by Henry Daniell of the School of Dental Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
Daniell published a study that showed the therapeutic impact that various lab-created proteins could have on treating hypertension .
The study used a patented plant-based production system in the growing process. This involved plant materials taking over the DNAs of target proteins . Because the plant materials used are low-cost and naturally-occurring, the purification process is much simpler and cheaper.
In a stroke of good fortune, it was noticed that the receptor for a protein that was used in Daniell’s study just so happened to bind to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.
Daniell then observed the results of a study created by his colleague, Hyun Koo. Koo had completed his own study on a plant-grown protein-based chewing gum as a means to disrupt dental plaque .
Daniell then combined the results of these two studies. Because of the findings, Daniell speculated on how a gum infused with plant-grown proteins could impact SARS-CoV-2. Thus, his own research study began.
The research was carried out by Daniell and his colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania. Furthermore, the research was published in the journal Molecular Therapy .
Daniell presided over the study. The study involved the use of blood, nasal swabs, saliva and other evidence that had been collected from real life patients of Covid-19 . Therefore, the study could replicate real-life scenarios.
The researchers grew the plant-based protein in a similar manner to Daniell’s last study. Then, the plant-based protein was converted into a cinnamon-flavored gum .
The researchers then analysed what happened when the gum interacted with the samples. They found that when the samples of Covid-positive patients interacted with the gum, that the virus became much less transmissible . Essentially, the virus became “trapped” by the gum .
Follow-up investigations took place at partner institutions around the state. As a result, scientists again saw that the gum largely prevented the virus or its particles from entering human cells .
This is an exciting finding, and suggests that a plant-grown protein-based gum could be a low-cost tool that can be used against Covid-19, with the researchers suggesting it would have a similar effect to masks .
Daniell commented on the findings. He said “SARS-CoV-2 replicates in the salivary glands, and we know that when someone who is infected sneezes, coughs, or speaks some of that virus can be expelled and reach others” .
Daniell continues with “this gum offers an opportunity to neutralize the virus in the saliva, giving us a simple way to possibly cut down on a source of disease transmission” .
What will happen next?
How this gum could be used in practice isn’t yet known. It wouldn’t be feasible to suggest everyone should chew gum non-stop when outside. However, potentially having access to the gum in tightly-packed or poorly-ventilated areas could be feasible.
How to implement this is the next challenge for the researchers. They also hope to hold trials to confirm the accuracy of their research.
It should be cautioned that this gum is in a very early stage of development. But if clinical trials show that the gum is safe and effective, it could be used as a potential treatment in the future, especially for those coming into close contact with those with Covid-19.
Overall, the gum certainly has potential. Daniell concluded by suggesting the gum could be used alongside masks to reduce transmission of Covid-19, which could help to save lives .
1) Covid-19 is having a debilitating effect on the world. Dentistry is among the worst-hit areas, and many people have untreated oral health problems. But routine dentistry has restarted, and dentists are encouraging people to get a regular check-up. It is important to book a check-up soon, as any issues that have built up since Covid-19 began can be acted upon and treatment provided where necessary.
2) The article mentioned the connection between the salivary glands and Covid-19. Because saliva is crucial, what we put into our mouths is also important. Having good oral hygiene and a healthy diet is vital! If you are worried about your oral health, it is worth consulting a dentist, who will be able to give you relevant advice.
What we offer at Taradale Dental
It is important for dental problems to be addressed early. Any oral-based problems will be identified at check-ups. This helps to prevent the problem getting worse. If and when further treatment is needed after a check-up, our patients receive a clear treatment plan.
The best way of avoiding extra treatment is to have strong oral hygiene. This includes brushing our teeth at least twice a day, flossing regularly, and getting a dental check-up at least twice a year. Avoiding sugary foods and drink and not smoking also helps.
 World Health Organization. (2022). WHO Coronavirus (COVID-19) Dashboard. Available: https://covid19.who.int/. Last accessed: 8th January 2022.
 Ritchie, H., Mathieu, E, Rodés-Guirao, L., Appel, C., Giattino, C., Ortiz-Ospina, E., Hasell, J., Macdonald, B., Beltekian, D., & Roser, M. (2022). Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccinations. Available: https://ourworldindata.org/covid-vaccinations?country=OWID_WRL. Last accessed: 8th January 2022.
 Daniell, H., Mangu, V., Yakubov, B., Park, J., Habibi, P., Shi, Y., Gonnella, P. A., Fisher, A., Cook, T., Zeng, L., Kawut, S. M., & Lahm, T. (2020). Investigational new drug enabling angiotensin oral-delivery studies to attenuate pulmonary hypertension. Biomaterials. 233: 119750. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biomaterials.2019.119750.
 Singh, R., Ren, Z, Shi, Y., Lin, S., Kwon, K-C., Balamurugan, S., Rai, V., Mante, F., Koo, H., & Daniell, H. (2021). Affordable oral health care: dental biofilm disruption using chloroplast made enzymes with chewing gum delivery. Plant Biotechnology Journal. 19(10): p2113-2125. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/pbi.13643.
 Daniell, H., Nair, S. K., Esmaelli, N., Weiner, D. B., Marguiles, K. B., & Collman, R. G. (2021). Debulking SARS-CoV-2 in saliva using angiotensin converting enzyme 2 in chewing gum to decrease oral virus transmission and infection. Molecular Therapy. (Pre-publication online release). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ymthe.2021.11.008.
 University of Pennsylvania. (2021). A chewing gum that could reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission. Available: https://penntoday.upenn.edu/news/chewing-gum-could-reduce-sars-cov-2-transmission. Last accessed: 8th January 2022.