COVID-19: a pill that thickens saliva could reduce infections

Researchers from the University of Central Florida (UCF) seek to reduce the chances of COVID-19 contagion in places where it is difficult to keep the safe distance by using a product that temporarily thickens people's saliva.

In this way, the saliva drops that float in the air when coughing, speaking or simply breathing would tend to fall to the ground and there would not be as much chance of someone else inhaling them, landing on surfaces or entering heating systems. or air conditioning, according to UCF.

Combined with a mask or face mask, the pill can shorten the safety distance required to protect against contagion from 1.80 meters to about 60 centimeters, according to preliminary data obtained in laboratory tests.

According to information published on the UCF website, the US National Science Foundation He awarded one of his $ 200,000 Rapid Response Research Awards to the team led by Mike Kinzel, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

Kinzel and her team set out to create something as simple as a tablet made from cornstarch or caramel that people could take before going to work, schools or stores or supermarkets now that many US states they begin to emerge from confinement and it is more difficult to maintain a safe distance from other people.

To explain the project, Kinzel uses the simile of clouds made up of small particles that float in the air for hours until they collide with each other and form larger particles that fall to the ground like rain drops. "We don't want the particles (of saliva) to blow in the wind but to fall like rain," he explains.

Kareem Ahmed, also an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and "number two" in the research, notes that maintaining "the distance of six feet (1.80 meters) is very good as a general guideline."

However, in closed places such as offices, grocery stores, public transportation or hospitals, the particles will "interact with surfaces, ventilation, heating and air conditioning systems."

Postdoctoral researchers Douglas Héctor Fontes and Jonathan Reyes are conducting simulations and laboratory tests to verify that the idea of ​​thickening saliva is good and to determine the point of viscosity, density and other aspects necessary for it to be effective.

"Preliminary results show a significant reduction in the duration of airborne particle suspension by changing the physical properties of saliva," Fontes says.

Her colleague Reyes, who studies how particles travel, found similar results. The particles don't go that far and fall sooner, he said.

Source: EFE ar / abm / cav