TPU-Developed Drug Tested in Mexico to Protect Healthcare Providers from COVID-19

An international research team, including the chemists from Tomsk Polytechnic University, proposed using a product based on silver nanoparticles to protect healthcare providers from COVID-19. It was successfully tested at the General Tijuana Hospital in Mexico. A total of 232 physicians and healthcare workers at the hospital who interacted with patients with the coronavirus disease took part in the voluntary trials. Only 1.8% of those who used the product fell ill or had a mild illness. Among those who did not use it, the illness rate was 28.2%. The research findings were published in PLOS ONE (IF: 3.24; Q1). The pharmaceutical product has also underwent a series of additional tests in an accredited laboratory in Spain.

Our international team includes both the university researchers from Tomsk Polytechnic University, the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and a number of other institutes in Mexico and Spain as well as the developers from the research and production private companies Vector-Vita (Novosibirsk) and Bionag (Mexico). We have been researching into the preparations based on silver nanoparticles for the past 20 years, and extensively advancing them both in Russia and abroad. We have developed a basic drug called Argovit, and launched its production in Novosibirsk," says Alexey Pestryakov, professor at the Research School of Chemistry & Applied Biomedical Sciences of Tomsk Polytechnic University.

The developed drug is a concentrate containing silver clusters (nanoparticles) no larger than 35 nanometers in size, surrounded by a polymer shell made of polyvinylpyrrolidone or gelatin. It can be diluted and used to create gels, ointments, sprays and liquid medications.

“We hold a whole set of patents for the formula itself, the technology, and its use to treat a number of diseases. It so happens that our team has close ties with the Mexican scientific and medical community. Therefore, a number of studies are being conducted there. In this country, a drug based on Argovit is successfully used, for example, to prevent and treat a diabetic foot syndrome and a number of other human and farm animal diseases (cow mastitis, canine distemper, shrimp white spot syndrome, etc.). In Russia, there is a form of the drug certified as a prophylactic remedy for oral cavity treatment. Since the drug has already shown its high effectiveness against bacteria and viruses, with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we assumed that it could be effective for this purpose as well,” explains the professor.

The Tijuana study was conducted over nine weeks in the spring of 2020. It involved two groups of healthcare workers. In the first one, 114 employees gargled their nose and throat twice a day with a solution containing silver nanoparticles. The second group of 117 people did not do it. Both groups used regular personal protective equipment for a covid hospital – masks, protective suits, etc.

“As a result, only two cases of infection were confirmed in the first group; those who fell ill had a mild form of the disease. In the control group, which included the healthcare staff of the hospital who did not use the Argovita solution, 33 employees out of 117 fell ill with COVID-19, i.e. 28.2%,”

says Alexey Pestryakov. In order to publish the research findings in the journal, we conducted a number of additional in vitro studies in Spain. Unfortunately, it took almost a year to publish the results. This is the reality that all drug researchers face, despite the urgency of the issue”.

Photo: Tijuana Hospital where the research was conducted

The agent used in the study falls into the category of colloidal silver preparations.

“Silver belongs to the class of heavy metals, hence as regards its use in medicine, it is rightly subject to stringent requirements for toxicity. The peculiarity of colloidal silver drugs is that their effectiveness and safety depend on many factors: the size of nanoparticles, their shape, the polymer shell used. The creator of each particular drug has to prove the efficacy and safety of the substance. We have gone all this way before. The substance itself and the drugs based on it have an extensive scientific evidence base for safety and efficacy. We have published over 80 scientific articles with the research results, obtained over 20 patents and patent applications. The research proves that in therapeutic doses the drug is not toxic,” the researcher says.

According to an expert, Mexico is now in the process of registering the drug for use as a prophylactic remedy against COVID-19.

Photo: Argovit 

“Our ultimate goal is to eventually use the drug in therapy and, of course, in our country. This summer, the medical institute of the North Caucasus State Academy in the city of Cherkessk conducted a study of the drug with the voluntary participation of 92 patients with COVID-19 in mild and moderate forms.

They were all treated with a standard therapy for this disease, however the inhalations with our drug twice a day were additionally included in the treatment regimen. The obtained results proved the increase of therapy efficiency when including nanosilver drug in the complex treatment regimen for COVID-19, at least for its mild and non-neglected forms of the disease. The treatment periods were shortened by an average of four days,” adds Alexey Pestryakov.

For more details about the research findings, please, refer to the article published in the Siberian Scientific Medical Journal.