A group of Stanford students and researchers was able to come up with an antiviral solution that could prevent the spread of certain viruses, including the novel coronavirus. They were able to develop a useful and very affordable nasal drop using chicken eggs and some household items.

Chicken Egg Antibodies

The main component of the antiviral solution that the team developed was chicken eggs. The natural antibodies present in the eggs have long been known to protect newly hatched chicks from diseases, so the group used this knowledge while concocting the nasal spray.

When they conducted their research last year, on-campus gatherings were still not allowed. Hence, the students had to work on the project in their homes and dorm rooms and use ordinary household items, including baking soda, vinegar, and food processors. Of course, they also had to have store-bought chicken eggs.

Hens can produce eggs with antibodies against a new virus if they are injected with antigens to that specific virus. It would take about three weeks for the antibodies to develop in the eggs. Since the eggs used by the students were from grocery stores and similar outlets, they did not have antibodies for SARS-CoV-2, as per Stanford Medicine.

The students had to isolate the other antibodies present in the eggs they had bought using a process that is the same for any antibody. The process involves separating the yolk from the white and diluting the former in water. To the yolk solution, vinegar is added. After shaking gently, the solution is frozen until it becomes solid.

The next step is to remove the fat by thawing and filtering the mixture. Salt is added before the solution is placed in test tubes and subjected to a commercial or a makeshift centrifuge (the food processors). Soft beads should form at the bottom due to the gravitational forces. The beads are then dissolved in water, neutralized with baking soda, and put in a dropper to be used as a nasal drop.

The team said that the protocols used by the students worked just as well as, if not better than, commercial processes. Using the simple methods, they were able to produce about 90 milligrams of IgY antibodies, which translated to about 25 doses. The solution was good for use for up to two weeks when stored at room temperature and for much longer when prepared in sterile conditions and refrigerated.

Potential Use In The Pandemic

The researchers were hoping for industrial or academic laboratories to produce a COVID-19 antigen or an antigen from other viruses for chicken farmers to inject into their hens. This way they could have antibody-egg-laying hens that could be used for the mass production of nasal sprays against SARS-CoV-2 and different viruses.

“IgY purified from eggs of immunized hens could be a tool to slow down the spread of airborne viruses,” said Daria Mochly-Rosen, PhD, who oversaw the research team. “This could be an effective and cheap solution. If we’re trying to address an epidemic or pandemic properly, we need to make sure a solution is available fast and everywhere in the world.”

For the George D. Smith Professor of Translational Medicine and her team, the approach they used could be particularly useful for people in low-resource countries. Only about 10% of the people in low-income countries have been vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2. The nasal drops could help regulate transmissions in these places since the IgY antibodies would be able to bind to the virus and prevent its interaction with the nasal passage receptors. However, Mochly-Rosen pointed out that what they created is not a replacement for the vaccines but a solution that would “complement” them.

The team’s study was published in the Journal of Global Health in late February.