Salt water spray cuts airborne pathogens

Nov. 30, 2004 at 2:33 PM
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CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Nov. 30 (UPI) -- Massachusetts researchers say taking a saline spray orally every six hours may reduce pathogen-laden droplets exhaled by some people.

Investigators from Harvard University and biotechnology firms Pulmatrix and Inamed conducted the study that is summarized this week on the Web site of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The scientists said they found a sharp demarcation between individuals who are high and low producers of small droplets of fluid exhaled from the lungs that may carry airborne pathogens.

The researchers estimate roughly half the population -- 6 of 11 individuals in their study -- may exhale more than 98 percent of all potentially pathogenic bio-aerosols.

They also found a six-minute inhalation of aerosolized salt-water solution, often used in the treatment of asthma, can reduce by as much as 72 percent the number of bio-aerosol particles exhaled by "high-producers" for as long as six hours.

"Administration of nebulized saline to individuals with viral or bacterial illnesses could dramatically reduce spread of these pathogens without interfering with any other treatments," one investigator wrote. "This work could also point the way to new hygiene protocols in clinical settings, as well as enclosed spaces."

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