More than one hundred years ago the Irish believed an extract from a red seaweed could cure sick cows, and humans with colds and flu’s. In terms of early treatment modern medical science is slowly catching up with 19th Century farmers. In a small trial this year medical workers were 80% less likely to catch Covid if they were using a nasal spray with the “Irish Moss” carrageenan extract. It’s only a case of 2 out of 200 catching Covid in the test group, compared to 10 out of 200 in the placebo group, so the “80%” is a rubbery number, but it was a randomized control trial, and there are other lab test results which suggest the effect is real.
And because we recently figured out it was useful against common colds and influenza’s, nasal sprays with this common safe food additive are already on sale at the Chemist. So you can pop in and get one before Christmas Parties.
Carrageenan or “Irish Moss” is a polysaccaride gel from a red seaweed. It works by gumming things up for quite a few viruses — basically getting in the way and trapping them in the gel. The idea is to squirt it up your nose three or four times a day to make it hard for a virus to get in. Not as much fun as a glass of champers, but more fun than a head cold.
Carrageenan is a food additive, and it’s so safe a 70kg person could eat half a kilo of it a day “with no adverse effects”. So it’s safer than table salt. We’ve known since the 1980s carrageenan’s been useful in the lab against influenza viruses, coronavirus OC43, rhinoviruses, and coxsackievirus. Which is why it’s been put into commercial nasal sprays. One here in Australia is called Flo Travel, aimed at travellers sitting on planes, but there will be others. Look for iota-Carrageenan in the ingredients.
In Ireland it’s use goes back to about 400AD, but in places like China, about 14,000 years. Currently carrageenan is added as a thickener to things like icecreams.
Seriously — a nasal spray?
Two years ago I would have said “bollocks.” I assumed that a squirt up the nose wouldn’t stop all the virions and it seemed an exercise in futility. It only takes one virion to get through the gates and it will make 1000 babies. By the time one baby virus gets into your lungs, the nasal squirty spray will be irrelevant. But the vast area at the back of your nose and mouth is often the first spot an airborne virus latches onto. There is something like one square meter of surface area behind our noses for viruses to romp in:
The nasal cavity has a volume of between 15 and 19 ml, and a macroscopic surface area of 150–180 cm2, however the presence of microstructures such as microvilli on the columnar cells drastically increase this surface area to around 96,000 cm2
And if the gel spray misses the first virus, it can still be there to catch a lot of the baby-viruses as they leak out of the hijacked cell. That means a big reduction in viral load, which means less chance of the virus getting into your lungs, or your digestive tract, and less chance of breathing it out and infecting a friend. It also means you can slow the rampant exponential phase and buy your immune system time to find the right key and make the right weapons. In the arms race of exponential expansion, extra time at the start is a big advantage.
The back of your nose is the new frontier
It’s not just nasal sprays, there are also throat gargles, nasal washes, and all kinds of ways to killing or flush virions out at the start. The Docs in Spain with the remarkable 100% survival rate used nasal washes with bicarb. I’ll write more on these other strategies soon.
So, spray away before events, you’re less likely to catch Covid and quite a few other viruses, and if you do catch something, then it’ll still likely reduce the length of time you are ill.
Apparently sucking carragelose lozenges might work too.
It’s just another early treatment that our Minister for Health forgot to mention
The big question is, like always, we’ve clearly known this was a reasonable possibility since the very beginning of the Covid epidemic, yet here we are, billions of dollars worth of lockdowns and five million dead people later, and the giant industrial medical complex didn’t think it was worth mentioning. No “awareness” campaigns, no free samples from every GP. No government advertising, no news spots.
It’s yet another cheap and safe way to slow the virus, but still have more normal lives.
People using carrageenan got better faster.
In another bonus, not only does it reduce the length of long colds, it also reduces the recurrence of them.
I didn’t realize recurring colds were “a thing” but apparently, they are. With the common cold coronavirus nearly half the placebo group got recurring symptoms later, but with the carageenan treatment only a fifth did.
There is an interesting discussion on the preprint Figeroa paper. The two positive cases in the test group were on day 2 and day 5, which means the first one was probably already infected before the trial started.
h/t Old Ozzie, Krishna Gans
Figueroa JM, Lombardo ME, Dogliotti A, et al. Efficacy of a nasal spray containing Iota-Carrageenan in the postexposure prophylaxis of COVID-19 in hospital personnel dedicated to patients care with COVID-19 disease. Int J Gen Med. 2021;14:6277-6286. doi:10.2147/IJGM.S328486
Morokutti-Kurz M, Graf P, Grassauer A, Prieschl-Grassauer E. (2020) SARS-CoV-2 in-vitro neutralization assay reveals inhibition of virus entry by iota-carrageenan. PLOS One. doi:10.1101/2020.07. 28.22473321.
. Pharmacol Res Perspect, 2021 Aug;9(4):e00810. doi: 10.1002/prp2.810.Carrageenan nasal spray may double the rate of recovery from coronavirus and influenza virus infections: Re-analysis of randomized trial data,