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Neosporin Ointment in the Nose Might Be Potent Antibiotic
  • Posted April 23, 2024

Neosporin Ointment in the Nose Might Be Potent Antibiotic

Want to prevent a respiratory infection?

A fingerful of Neosporin antibiotic swabbed inside your nose might help you fight off a range of invading respiratory viruses, a new study claims.

Lab animals whose noses were treated using neomycin -- the main ingredient in over-the-counter Neosporin ointment -- mounted a robust immune defense against both the COVID virus and a highly virulent strain of influenza, researchers found.

The same nasal approach also appeared to work in humans, this time with Neosporin itself.

The ointment triggered a swift immune response from genes in the human nose that serve as a first line of defense against invading viruses, researchers reported April 22 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“This is an exciting finding, that a cheap over-the-counter antibiotic ointment can stimulate the human body to activate an antiviral response,” said Akiko Iwasaki, a professor of immunobiology and dermatology at Yale School of Medicine, in New Haven, Conn.

Neosporin contains neomycin, bacitracin and polymyxin B, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Medicine.

The COVID-19 virus has infected more than 774 million people and killed nearly 7 million, researchers said in background notes. Meanwhile, flu viruses cause up to 5 million cases of severe disease and a half-million deaths annually.

Against these threats, humans deploy treatments that are typically taken orally or intravenously, researchers said. These approaches focus on stopping the progression of infections.

But researchers think a nasal-centered therapy has a much better chance of stopping infections before they can spread to the lungs and cause life-threatening illnesses like pneumonia.

Starting with mice, researchers found that nasal neomycin prompted a strong immune response in those exposed to COVID and flu viruses.

Neomycin also strongly defended lab hamsters against contact transmission of COVID, researchers said.

Some healthy humans who had their noses swabbed with Neosporin also showed a strong immune response.

“Our findings suggest that we might be able to optimize this cheap and generic antibiotic to prevent viral diseases and their spread in human populations, especially in global communities with limited resources,” Iwasaki said in a Yale news release. “This approach, because it is host-directed, should work no matter what the virus is.”

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more on Neosporin.

SOURCE: Yale University, news release, April 22, 2024

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