GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — A pair of researchers at East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine have discovered that new nanotechnology may have therapeutic benefits in the treatment of SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The ECU patented technology is called “SNAT,” standing for Smart Nano-Enabled Antiviral Therapy.

Researchers Dr. Lok Pokhrel, assistant professor of toxicology in Brody’s Public Health Department, and Dr. Shaw Akula, a virologist and associate professor in Brody’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology, used hamsters to test the ability of SNAT to inhibit infection caused by COVID-19. After 14 days, results showed that SNAT reduced the virus in oral swabs, reversed bodily weight loss and improved lung function in the hamsters compared to those who had not been infected with the virus.

Pokhrel and Akula wanted to create a treatment that is more accessible in areas or countries with poor infrastructure.

“The current vaccinations as well as therapeutics, they’re either administered intravenously or they are oral pills against COVID-19, right. And the delivery or the treatment of those options require healthcare facilities, which were overwhelmed during the pandemic. So we wanted to find an alternative solution, in which case people can get the medication like an inhaler or nebulizer over the counter and treat them at home.”

Dr. Lok Pokhrel

Compared to other current treatments on the market, their drug is easier to maintain. It doesn’t need refrigeration or special storage, it can be stored for up to three years at room temperature, which is a big deal for treatment options in countries like Africa or Asia, according to the researchers.

They also say it’s “highly safe to lung cells, skin cells and it is also non-irritating to the eyes.”

SNAT is currently in its preclinical stage. The next step in phases one and two of clinical trials is to test the effectiveness in humans. Pokhrel and Akula say the technology is adaptable, allowing other researchers to test new viruses for any future epidemic or pandemic.